Greece-Albania: What does the demarcation of maritime zones at The Hague mean?

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Days before the two years commemoration of the assassination of Konstantinos Katsifas in the village of Vouliaratis (Βουλιαράτες, Albanian: Bularat) by an Albanian police commando, Greece and Albania have agreed to draft a joint statement to refer the issue of maritime demarcation between the two countries to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Proto Thema wrote.

Four months after the delimitation of maritime zones with Italy and about 60 days after the conclusion of the Exclusive Economic Zone with Egypt, Greece is taking another step towards settling the backlog with Albania for the delimitation of maritime zones in the Corfu region and enough so the Albanian side does not to withdraw from the agreement like they have done previously.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias Greece Albania Albanian President Ilir Meta
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias with Albanian President Ilir Meta on October 20, 2020 in Tirana.

Using the "carrot" of Albania's EU accession process, which Tirana wants to access European funds and due to the complicated political situation as Albania will hold elections on April 25, 2021, Greek diplomacy managed to reach an agreement with the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama on the drafting of a joint letter aimed at referring the issue of maritime zones to The Hague.

The case has made no progress for almost twenty years, after despite an agreement reached under the government of Costas Karamanlis, the Albanian side withdrew its consent to the plan to delimit maritime zones. The agreement was dropped in the Albanian constitutional court following an appeal by the Albanian opposition led by then-Prime Minister Edi Rama.

A few years later, he is the same person who wants an agreement with Athens for the delimitation of maritime zones on the northwestern border of Greece.

On Tuesday, during a meeting with Nikos Dendias in Tirana, Rama described Greece as a "strategic partner" and a "valuable neighbor."

He also announced a draft joint agreement to refer maritime issues to The Hague to "resolve outstanding issues in a constructive way in the interest of both countries".

"We discussed the issue of defining the maritime zones between Greece and Albania," said Dendias during his talks with Rama and stressed: "Resolving this dispute will be beneficial for both our countries and, of course, I listened to the position of the Prime Minister, Mr. Rama, that this solution will be based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which we have both signed."

"Having thoroughly examined this issue, we agreed that Greece and Albania should proceed together to submit this issue to an international court - the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Our agreement, between Greece and Albania, is based on the firm commitment of both countries to international legitimacy and the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes," said the Greek Foreign Minister.

The message to Turkey

From Tirana, the capital of a country with which Turkey has built close ties, sometimes using the artificial deterioration of Greek-Albanian relations as a tool to achieve its own aspirations, the Greek side sent a clear message: differences are resolved peacefully and when these are outstanding issues in the maritime zones, the basis is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In this way, Dendias and the Greek government sent a message internationally that outstanding issues should be resolved through dialogue, on the basis of international legitimacy and not through unilateral attempts to usurp sovereign rights of other countries, as Turkey systematically does in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, trying to create a detriment to Greece.

Makis Pollatos is a correspondent for Proto Thema.

The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Greek City Times.

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This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor