Greece’s parliament Wednesday announced a one-day delay in debate and voting on controversial maritime deals with Egypt and Italy. 

The 300-seat Hellenic Parliament said in a statement that, as a precaution against coronavirus, the voting will be held Thursday in groups of 60 lawmakers at 15.00-20.00 local time (GMT1200-1700).

The votes on the maritime deals come on the heels of Monday visits by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to Greece and Turkey, encouraging both countries to engage in dialogue to avoid conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Apparently seeking to block Turkey’s legitimate maritime territorial claims, Greece signed an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) deal with Italy on June 9 and with Egypt on Aug. 7.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry slammed the latter in a statement, asserting that Greece and Egypt share no sea borders and that the deal is “null and void.”

It added that the demarcated area in the pact is located on Turkey’s continental shelf, as Ankara has reported to the UN.

Turkey has long opposed efforts of various countries to exclude it from its rightful maritime jurisdiction, despite having the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The efforts have especially tried to deprive Turkey of its rights to explore energy resources in the region, which Turkey has encouraged the fair sharing of by regional countries.

Turkey and Libya signed a landmark deal last November laying out maritime boundaries between the two countries.

Ionian Sea move

Separately, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government is planning to submit a bill to double Greece’s territorial waters in the Ionian Sea – facing Italy – from six to 12 nautical miles, Greek daily Ekathimerini reported.

In the future Greece could also extend its territorial waters in other maritime areas, he added.

In the mid-1990s, Greece had similarly attempted to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea to 12 miles, but scuttled the plan after Turkey declared such a move would be a casus belli or cause for war.

*Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak

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