Greece said on Thursday (18 February) it had protested to Turkey over its deployment of a research vessel in the Aegean Sea, in what it called an “unnecessary” move as the NATO allies seek to resume talks over a long-standing maritime dispute.
An advisory issued by Turkey’s navy this week showed the research vessel Çeşme would be conducting a hydrographic survey from 18 February until 2 March in an area of international waters where both sides have potential interests.
“It’s an unnecessary move which does not help positive sentiment,” government spokesman Christos Tarantilis told reporters. The foreign ministry has made a verbal complaint, government officials said.
The Çeşme vessel has the appearance of a military ship.
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Ankara considers the area to be in international waters, and the oceanographic research was unrelated to the dispute over continental shelves, Turkish diplomatic sources said.
They said the Çeşme vessel would carry out the same kind of scientific surveys which Greece recently conducted in the area, which were permitted under a 1976 agreement between the two countries.
The Greek officials said that although the Çeşme was operating in international waters, responsibility for issuing maritime advisories in that part of the Aegean fell to Greece.
After a five-year pause and months of tension over overlapping claims for energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean last year, Greek and Turkish officials met in Ankara on 25 January to discuss the delimitation of maritime zones.
The meeting in Istanbul ended after a few hours and the two countries, at odds over a number of decades-old issues including the extent of their continental shelves, have agreed to meet again in Athens.
Athens has sent an invitation to Ankara suggesting the talks resume in early March – ahead of a European leaders summit – and it is awaiting a response from Turkey, foreign ministry spokesman Alexandros Papaioannou told reporters.
Since 2002, the two countries have held dozens of rounds of talks to try to lay the groundwork for full negotiations over the issue. But obstacles remain, including what each side is willing to discuss.
The pending issues between Athens and Ankara could be discussed and resolved by using NATO as a platform of coordination and cooperation, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said on Wednesday.