Turkey extends exploration in disputed East Med again

USA & World

Turkey extends exploration in disputed East Med again

Turkey says it is extending seismic exploration by its vessels in a disputed area of the Eastern Mediterranean until November 4, a step that is set to fuel tensions in the region.

NATO members Turkey and Greece have been locked in a dispute over the extent of their continental shelves and conflicting claims to hydrocarbon resources in the East Med.

The dispute erupted in August when Turkey first sent the ship Oruc Reis into waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus.

Along with two other ships, the Ataman and Cengiz Han, Oruc Reis will continue work in an area south of the Greek island of Rhodes until November 4, a Turkish naval maritime notice said late on Saturday.

A previous notice scheduled survey work in the area until October 27.

EU states slam Turkey

Ankara withdrew Oruc Reis last month to allow for diplomacy before an October 2 European Union summit where Cyprus sought sanctions against Turkey.

After the summit, the bloc said it would punish Turkey if it continued its operations in the region, a move Ankara said further strained Turkey-EU ties.

Turkey sent the vessel out again on October 12, prompting an angry response from Greece, France and Germany. Turkey has extended the duration of the vessels’ exploration multiple times since then.

Athens says Ankara is breaking international law by prospecting in Greek waters and has been urging the EU to reconsider its customs union with Turkey in response to Ankara’s exploration in the Mediterranean, deploring what it termed Turkey’s “imperial fantasies”.

Concerns remain high around a potential military conflict between Greece and Turkey. Both have been carrying out manoeuvres in the region with frigates and fighter jets.

Turkey insists it is within its rights in the energy-rich Mediterranean region, saying not all Greeks islands are large enough to count when it comes to delineating the extent of Greek sovereignty.