(Bloomberg) — U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and his Greek counterpart Nikolaos Dendias reaffirmed their countries’ position that maritime borders should be settled peacefully and in accordance with international law, as Athens prepares for a new round of talks with Turkey on territorial disputes.
The U.S. welcomes Greece’s readiness to engage with other countries in the region to agree on maritime delimitation, the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement after Dendias and Pompeo met in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
Turkey and Greece are set to resume exploratory talks aimed at resolving disputes in the eastern Mediterranean, after a tense naval standoff over the summer brought the two countries to the brink of conflict. The resumption of negotiations could build on moves to ease tensions in the energy-rich region, where Turkey, Greece and Cyprus are at loggerheads over maritime boundaries.
Greece says that islands must be taken into account in delineating a country’s continental shelf, in line with the UN Law of the Sea, which Turkey has not signed. Ankara argues that a country’s continental shelf should be measured from its mainland, and that the area south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo — just a few kilometers off Turkey’s southern coast — therefore falls within its exclusive zone.
The Greek Foreign Ministry statement also said that Dendias and Pompeo reiterated their governments’ desire to continue to strengthen cooperation within the so-called 3+1 format, which includes Cyprus, Greece, Israel and the U.S.
Athens and Washington will look to further enhance their strategic defense and security partnership by expanding and deepening the U.S.-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, the ministry said.
Both sides welcome the September 22 establishment of the EastMed Gas Forum as a regional organization and the ongoing successful cooperation on energy through the 3+1 process, according to the statement. Greece and the U.S. both underscored the participation of ExxonMobil Corp in partnership with Total SA and Hellenic Petroleum SA in offshore exploration blocs off the coast of Crete, as well the potential opportunities for U.S. investment in the renewable energy sector.