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Cablegate: Greece/Turkey: Naval Standoff Over Oil Exploration

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTH #1570/01 3231557
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 181557Z NOV 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2807
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA PRIORITY 2977
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 0218
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 0318
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/NAVSUPPACT SOUDA BAY GR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSIXTHFLT PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L ATHENS 001570

SIPDIS

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2018
TAGS: PREL PARM MOPS GR TU
SUBJECT: GREECE/TURKEY: NAVAL STANDOFF OVER OIL EXPLORATION
VESSEL "OVER;" LONGER-TERM CONCERNS

REF: A. HOVENIER/EUR-SE E-MAIL OF NOVEMBER 16 2008
B. ANKARA 1986

Classified By: DCM Deborah McCarthy for 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) In a 11/17 meeting with Ambassador Speckhard, MFA
Secretary General Aristides Agathocles confirmed that the
immediate crisis is "over" with Turkey over a Norwegian ship
accompanied by a Turkish frigate that had been conducting oil
exploration approximately eighty miles south of the Greek
island of Kastelorizo (ref A). Following intervention by FM
Bakoyannis with the Norwegian Foreign Minister and Greek
approaches in Ankara, the vessel ceased its exploration and
had departed the area.

2. (C) Agathocles -- a former Greek PremRep to the EU --
said he was "frustrated" by this situation. Greece and
Turkey had been close to "reaching agreement" on continental
shelf issues from 1999 to 2004 in the context of decisions on
Turkish EU accession. However, this issue didn't get
resolved, and as long as things are "left to chance," there
will continue to be incidents. Furthermore, Greece has not
changed its position. If progress isn't made, Greece will
ultimately have to raise these issues in the context of
Turkey's EU accession; this is neither in Greek nor Turkish
interest.

3. (C) The Ambassador emphasized the importance of
addressing Aegean-related disputes through diplomatic, and
not military, means. He also reiterated our desire to see
these issues resolved equitably and on the basis of
international law.

4. (C) Agathocles briefly raised the November 13 incident in
which a Turkish naval vessel drove off two seismic research
vessels working in agreement with Cypriot authorities (ref
B). Agathocles said he did not believe the two incidents
were linked, but added that Cypriot officials had told him
that the area where the two vessels had been operating was
"beyond areas claimed by Turkey -- at least until now."

5. (C) MFA Aegean unit chief Liliana Grammatika told
A/Political Counselor that the Greek MFA believed that the
issue had been resolved by Norway and not/not Turkey. After
FM Bakoyannis spoke to Norwegian FM Store on November 15,
Greece received assurances from both the Norwegian government
and the Norwegian company that owned the vessel in question
that it would no longer conduct operations in an area that
Greece claimed as part of its continental shelf. Grammatika
added that the vessel had not departed the area until Sunday
due to "either mechanical problems or something else," but
was now "no longer there." Grammatika noted that the
Norwegian MFA website now had a short statement on the issue,
which noted that while Norway does not take positions on
unresolved issues of maritime delimitation between third
States, it is essential for Norwegian companies to "ensure
that they have all necessary authorizations."

6. (C) Grammatika added that Greece has consistently raised
the question of the dlimitation of the continental shelf in
the Grek-Turkish "exploratory talks," but that there has
been "no progress." Greece wants this resolved "on the basis
of international law." She reiterated that Greece's position
on the continental shelf "differs" from Turkey's, in that
Greece asserts that under international law, the continental
shelf should extend 200 miles from national territory,
including islands. Turkey argues that the continental shelf
extends only from the mainland and excludes islands. She
added that Greece recognizes that Turkey has legitimate
interests that need to be addressed, and it is for that
reason that Greece continues to seek arbitration, preferably
from the ICJ, on the question of the continental shelf.

7. (C) Turkish Charge told DCM he had been called to the
Foreign Ministry on Saturday, November 15, over the Norwegian
ship exploration. In his view, the GOG was focused on
avoiding press criticism of how it handled the issue. Noting
that the continental shelf disputes had been going on for
years, he added that Greece, in his opinion, would rather
deal with the issues in the context of EU accession, since
other mechanisms such as the ICJ would not necessarily be
favorable to Greece. Overall, he commented, the tone of the


relationship was good at the political level.
SPECKHARD

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