The sending of the Oruc Reis ship to explore for oil and gas in what is considered Greek waters, represents the most recent Turkish provocation in the Mediterranean. This move was described by Athens as a threat to peace and stability in the region.
Greece has placed its naval forces in a state of absolute readiness, with units of the Hellenic Navy and Air Force deployed in the wider sea area, where the Turkish research ship was expected.
Some local reports stated that the Greek government has requested all military officers to return to their positions immediately. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also called on the European Union to hold an urgent meeting to consider Ankara’s violations in the eastern Mediterranean region.
The Greek government affirmed its right to defend the country’s sovereign rights, describing the Turkish role in the region as “destabilising”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu vowed to press ahead with the exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. He stated that his government plans to issue new exploration licenses for the area, despite an escalating dispute with Greece over drilling rights.
“We are fully determined to continue our seismic research and drilling efforts,” Cavusoglu said during a joint news conference with his visiting Azerbaijani counterpart. “We will defend to the end, the rights of Turkey, and of Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean, and in Cyprus. We will make no concessions.”
The Turkish government announced on Monday that its research vessel Oruc Reis, and two support vessels would be operating in the Mediterranean Sea between Cyprus and Greece until the 23rd of August. The vessel arrived in the area on Monday morning, escorted by Turkish warships.
Greece slammed the decision as an illegal act that infringed on its sovereign rights, saying the Turkish research vessel was inside an area covered by the Greek continental shelf. Greek warships were in the area monitoring the Oruc Reis, and the military was placed on high alert, officials said.
Greece and Turkey have traditionally been at odds for decades over a wide variety of issues. The two have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, including once over drilling exploration rights in the Aegean Sea. Recent discoveries of natural gas, and drilling plans across the eastern Mediterranean have led to renewed tensions.