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    The current territorial dispute between Ankara and Athens may exacerbate even further already tense bilateral relations, which should only be resolved at the negotiating table, Turkish political analyst Murat Bilhan told Sputnik Turkey

    Turkey, Greece Territorial Spat 'Can Only Be Resolved at Negotiating Table'

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    The current territorial dispute between Ankara and Athens may exacerbate even further already tense bilateral relations, which should only be resolved at the negotiating table, Turkish political analyst Murat Bilhan told Sputnik Turkey.

    In an interview with Sputnik Turkey, Murat Bilhan from the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies warned of serious consequences of the current territorial spat between Ankara and Athens, which he said may further deteriorate the already tense bilateral ties.

    The interview came after local media reported on Wednesday that Turkish coast guard vessels entered Greek territorial waters near the disputed islet of Imia in the southeast Aegean.

    The breach was monitored by the Greek navy and coast guard, the Kathimerini newspaper reported.

    The newspaper quoted Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias as saying that "Turkey came very close to crossing Greece's red lines in the Aegean."

    "We are not Syria, which has been destroyed, nor a disorganized Iraq… Turkey is making a mistake if it thinks that because we have an economic crisis we are weak as regards our country's security," he said.

    The Aegean dispute has been a major source of tension between Greece and Turkey since the 1970s, bringing the two countries to the brink of military confrontation in 1987 and 1996.

    The dispute revolves around a set of issues involving the delimitation of territorial waters, airspace, demilitarized zones and the status of several uninhabited Aegean Sea islands, known as Imia in Greece and Kardak in Turkey.

    Turkey disputes Greece's claim that the islands entered Greek ownership in 1947, after first being assigned to Italy in 1923 following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, according to the New York Times.

    Commenting on the issue, Murat Bilhan said that now that the territorial dispute between Turkey and Greece show no sign of abating, both sides continue to take bilateral provocative steps.

    "The continuing uncertainty surrounding the islands exacerbate the already difficult Turkish-Greek relations, something that can only be resolved at the negotiating table," he said.

    Bilhan added that the two country's territorial spat "periodically" adds to the crisis in bilateral ties and that both sides "should take a mutually acceptable decision on the matter."

    "Delimitation and demarcation of the maritime areas in the Aegean Sea is a tricky process. It requires a balanced approach and mutual concessions," he pointed out.

    Talks to resolve the issue began after 1999, when Turkey agreed to resolve the bilateral dispute as part of its accession deal with the European Union.

    The 1996 standoff was triggered by a dispute during a Turkish-Greek cargo ship salvaging operation on the Imia islet, which lies with around just 4.5 miles off the Turkish coast. Turkey claimed sovereignty over the islet for the first during the incident.

    Tensions were again stoked last month, when a Turkish missile boat approached the islet before being blocked by the Greek coast guard.

    The incident took place after the Greek Supreme Court's ruling against the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers involved in a failed coup against the Turkish government last year.

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    decision, ties, islands, tension, territorial dispute, crisis, relations, Turkey, Greece
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