Samaras says Greece wants peaceful solution to energy dispute
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said his government wants a peaceful solution to a dispute with neighboring Turkey over hydrocarbon exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean but criticized Ankara for invoking international law even though it has not signed the main international treaty regulating such disputes, the UN Law of the Sea. "We want to settle our differences with Turkey over the possible discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the Aegean peacefully, on friendly terms and based on the Law of the Sea," Samaras told a forum in Athens on Monday, according to the Greek daily Kathimerini. "As a country, we are referring to international law, which we have signed, but Turkey refers to it without having signed," he said. Samaras' remarks came after an exchange of criticism between Turkey and Greece over the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation's (TPAO) planned exploration for hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. In a statement last week, the Greek Foreign Ministry claimed that the area where the TPAO has been given a license to explore includes part of the Greek continental shelf and declared that it had taken the issue to the UN by sending a diplomatic message to the world body that outlined their complaints. The Turkish Foreign Ministry swiftly responded to the Greek accusation, saying that the licenses granted to TPAO since 2007 are confined to areas that are within the Turkish continental shelf and that Turkey has sovereign right to explore and extract hydrocarbon reserves in the disputed area. The disputed area in the eastern Mediterranean is a geographical extension of the Aegean Sea, where Turkey and Greece have deep-seated territorial problems. Turkey says the continental shelf should be measured from the mainland, while Greece argues that the Greek islands along the Turkish coasts should be the starting point. Greece says the UN Law of the Sea, which Turkey has not signed, supports its stance in the dispute. The UN treaty says the islands should be taken into consideration when delineating the continental shelf of littoral states but it says this principle applies only to big islands, not small islets or rocks. Turkey rejects the Greek claims simply because the Aegean would become a Greek sea if the Greek islands off the Turkish coast are taken into consideration when creating the borders of territorial waters.