Turkish Navy has said that a research ship at the centre of an energy rights row with Greece will be sent back to contentious waters in the Mediterranean, a move that is likely to inflate tensions with Athens.
Tensions swelled in August when the vessel was sent to survey an area claimed by Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. Turkey withdrew its ship, the Oruc Reis, in September ahead of diplomatic attempts to resolve the dispute.
Now, Ankara has said that the ship will again spend 10 days conducting seismic research in the eastern Mediterranean. The vessel will also be accompanied by two other ships, Ataman and Cengiz Han.
Earlier, Turkey criticized “unfounded” remarks made by Greece’s foreign minister. “The claims and remarks of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Nikos Dendias in his interview with the newspaper Eleftheros Typos, which was published today (11 October), are unfounded,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.
“Exploratory talks were suspended in 2016 upon the request of Greece. Claiming that the talks were suspended on the account of Turkey is an attempt to mislead public opinion,” Aksoy said.
“By the same token, the claim that a single issue is discussed within the framework of exploratory talks does not reflect the reality. These talks are aimed at resolving all interrelated issues between the two countries,” he said.
“On the other hand, it is the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus who opened the coastal front of Maras [Varosha in Greek] for public visits, not Turkey,” the statement read.
“The Greek-Greek Cypriot duo’s claim that identifies this step as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and that people who enter the sea there threaten international security is ridiculous and far from being serious,” he added.
According to Aksoy, Greece’s attempt to use the EU as a “trump card” against Turkey instead of “resolving its issues in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean through sincere dialogue with our country is a futile endeavour.”
“Greece should have by now comprehended that the discourse of threats and blackmail will not prevail.
“Greece claiming to be ready for dialogue with Turkey on the one hand and proceeding with actions and activities that heighten the tension on the other is a display of insincerity,” he added.
Aksoy said the military exercise that was announced by Turkey for Oct. 28, 2020, in the Aegean Sea and criticized by Dendias is actually a response to the military exercise previously announced by Greece to be conducted on Oct. 29, contrary to the 1988 Memorandum of Understanding of Athens.
“In spite of our warnings, the fact that Greece is conducting an exercise on our national day is an approach devoid of good faith,” he said.
“Turkey will continue to resolutely defend both her own rights in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas and those of Turkish Cypriots.”
Eastern Mediterranean issue
Tensions have recently escalated regarding the issue of energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greece has disputed Turkey’s energy exploration, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.
Turkey has sent drillships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also have rights in the region.
To reduce tensions, Turkey has called for dialogue to ensure fair sharing of the region’s resources. The abandoned town of Maras in the Turkish Cypriot city of Gazimagusa partially reopened for public use Thursday.
The UN Security Council discussed the latest developments Friday on “The Situation in Cyprus” and urged the TRNC to retreat from partially reopening the town.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turks and Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor power.
It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the UK.