Turkey Extends Exploration Mission in Eastern Mediterranean

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On Sunday, Turkey extended its gas exploration mission in the eastern Mediterranean, despite protests from Athens which denounced Turkey’s “illegal activity.”

The Turkish Navy announced this in a message via the Naval Warning System, ‘NAVTEX’. It stated that the seismic monitoring vessel ‘Oruc Reis’ will continue its mission until 14 November. The announcement comes as Turkey and Greece have shown solidarity in recent days, after an earthquake struck them. The ship’s dispatch, which has become a symbol of Ankara’s gas ambitions, has sparked an escalation of tensions with Athens in recent months.

Greece accuses Turkey of violating international maritime law by drilling in its waters, especially around the island of Kastellorizo. Athens is calling for EU sanctions to be imposed on Ankara. Turkey says it has the right to conduct exploration for energy resources in this region of the eastern Mediterranean, and stresses that the presence of the small island of Kastellorizo near its coast is contradictory to Athens’ sovereignty claims.

In a de-escalation step, Ankara withdrew the ‘Oruc Reis’ in September from the region, before resending it again on 12 October. It subsequently extended its mission several times.

Greece has intensified its protests against the sending of the Turkish ship, describing it as a “direct threat to peace and security in the region.” Athens urged Ankara to cancel a notification issued by the navy announcing oil and gas exploration activity in the Mediterranean. Greece continues to hold the view that the area it covers includes the Greek continental shelf. Turkey and Greece, two NATO members are at odds because of their conflicting claims over resources, and continental shelf borders.

“Greece once again condemns this reckless behaviour,” said Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in a written statement. He added that his team is preparing an official diplomatic protest and will inform its European Union partners and allies on the issue.