As tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean have increased, talks between Greece and Turkey have come to an impasse. Here are some of the burning issues.

Tensions between Turkey and Greece reached new levels this week when both countries announced that they would hold naval exercises in the Mediterranean.

Turkey has been keen to emphasise that it is willing to sit down with Greece without any preconditions and that Athens should stop ratcheting up tensions.

"We are in favour of negotiations for fair sharing but nobody should lay down preconditions. This cannot happen with preconditions laid down by Greece," Cavusoglu said, adding, "before anything, Greece needs to abandon its maximalist approach."

Turkey has pursued a policy of defending what it considers its territorial waters in the Eastern Mediterranean and more broadly at what it felt were moves by regional countries to restrict its access to the open seas.

So what are the main sticking points between the two NATO members?

Blue homeland

In a recent interview, the retired Admiral Cem Gurdeniz said that “They [Greeks] think the Aegean belongs to them, they live in a fantasy world. The current status of Aegean sea is that 50 percent is international waters, it’s no-man's-land.”

Turkey has argued that regions Mediterranean countries have attempted to “geopolitically contain” it by restricting its access to the sea.

Since the vast majority of Turkey’s trade is conducted by sea, this has significant national security repercussions.

Ankara has called for an Eastern Mediterranean forum in which all the interested countries could come together to discuss their concerns and resolve any issues. This has however been spurned by Greece which has fallen back on the EU to forcefully push its claims.

Libya-Turkey Memorandum

Towards the end of 2019, Libya and Turkey delineated their maritime borders, a deal that had been in the works since 2009.

While Greece argues that this overlaps with its claim, Turkey has vehemently disputed this saying that Athens is seeking to expand its territorial waters through islands, sometimes uninhabited that are several hundred kilometres from the Greek mainland.

Turkey argues that such islands can not generate its own Exclusive Economic Zone at the expense of Turkey’s coastline.

Greece has attempted to sign an overlapping agreement with Egypt to establish its own economic zone in a move that was condemned by Turkey as “worthless.”

Turkey has enforced its maritime claims by sending naval patrol ships in a bid to defend its claims.

Greek Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus

The Greek Cypriot Administration with backing from Athens has sought to exploit natural energy reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean by selling parcels of the sea for exploration.

Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have said this is an attempt to prematurely preclude negotiations on the final status of negotiations between the divided island.

“If the EU wants to be a part of the process that aims peace, prosperity and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, it must be objective and honest. As shared with the public earlier, the calls for restraint should be directed to Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration, which harm EU's interests and escalate tensions by exploiting the EU membership solidarity, rather than Turkey on the side of dialogue and cooperation,” Hami Aksoy, the spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said in a written statement.

A defence deal between France and Greek Cypriot Administration has also resulted in an increase of tensions in the region.

“It is unacceptable for France to take steps to further increase the tension in the current period, to organize joint exercises with the Greek Cypriot Administration in this context and to deploy military aircraft here contrary to the 1960 Treaties, albeit temporarily,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

“We support the reaction and statements made by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) authorities on this issue.

“We invite France, Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, to act more responsibly on Cyprus-related issues that are on the UN agenda,” it added.

Source: TRT World