Greece plans to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles to the south and west of the island of Crete in March, local media reported on Sunday.
The government made the decision due to favorable international and regional developments and seeks to gain an upper hand over the opposition by delivering on a long-held demand ahead of parliamentary elections slated for summer 2023, online news outlet In. Gr reported, citing sources from the office of the presidency.
A unilateral decision by Egypt on Dec.11 to demarcate its western maritime borders with neighboring Libya and exploration work by US energy giant ExxonMobil off Crete also spurred the move, according to the news outlet.
It added that Greek authorities did not expect a particularly harsh reaction from neighbouring ring Turkiye amid heightened tensions over a number issues including on the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Seas, Cyprus, and arms accumulation.
The move would also significantly help Athens’ wider regional strategy to curb Ankara and its influence over Libya.
Since early November, Exxon Mobil has been conducting seismic surveys in two blocks off Crete in the hope of discovering energy resources.
In response, Libya accused Greece of exploiting the Libyan crisis to impose a fait accompli and decried Athens’ “irresponsible behavior” of striking a deal with international companies to launch research and exploration efforts on the maritime borders between them.
Greece opposes a 2019 maritime boundaries agreement the Tripoli government signed with Turkiye, which was later registered by the UN.
In October 2023, Libya and Turkiye also signed a preliminary agreement for energy exploration.