Turkey extends east Med survey, Greece calls it an ‘illegal move’

File photo. National seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis sails on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, 21 November 2018. [EPA-EFE/TOLGA BOZOGLU]

Turkey has extended the seismic survey work of its Oruç Reis ship in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean until November 4 – a move that Greece condemned on Sunday (25 October) as “illegal”.

Turkey said Greece’s accusation was “baseless” as tensions between the NATO members flared again in a dispute over the extent of their continental shelves and conflicting claims to hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

The row erupted in August when Turkey sent the Oruç Reis into waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus, both of them members of the European Union.

Along with two other ships, the Oruç Reis will operate south of the Greek island of Rhodes until November 4, according to a Turkish naval maritime notice issued late on Saturday. A previous notice scheduled survey work in the area until October 27.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said it would file a complaint with the Turkish side following the new advisory.

It said the extension of the survey was an “illegal move” at odds with efforts to ease tensions and with recent conclusions of the council of EU heads of government. Turkey, it added, was behaving “like a pariah” and seeking to destabilise the region.

“Greece blatantly condemns this unacceptable behaviour, which is essentially moving even further away from the prospect of a constructive dialogue,” the ministry said, calling for the advisory to be revoked immediately.

EU leaders unblock Belarus sanctions, issue 'carrot and stick' warning to Turkey

After weeks of bickering, EU leaders broke a longstanding deadlock to impose sanctions against members of the Belarus regime on Friday night (2 October) and fired a warning at Turkey over its gas drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the Greek statement was “baseless” and the area where Oruç Reis was operating was within Turkey’s continental shelf.

Turkey was ready to talk and cooperate to find a just solution, it added. “We expect Greece to desist from setting pre-conditions and creating artificial reasons for not entering into dialogue with our country.”

Ankara withdrew Oruç Reis last month to allow for diplomacy before an EU summit, where Cyprus sought sanctions against Turkey. It was sent back this month, prompting an angry reaction from Greece, France and Germany.

After the summit, the 27-nation EU said it would punish Turkey if it continued its operations in the region, a message Ankara said further strained Turkey-EU relations.

Gas fields and tensions in the eastern Mediterranean

The discovery in recent years of huge natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has whetted the appetite of nearby countries but exacerbated geopolitical tensions between Turkey and its neighbours.

Subscribe to our newsletters