With Turkey ramping up tensions and provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean, the country’s maps of the seas show expanded claims as foreign energy companies have begun drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus.
Seven maps, which have been cited in recent weeks by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, suggest other countries considering fixing maritime border regions must get Turkey’s permission.
While the maps were created between 2010-12, said Kathimerini – saying it had seen them – Turkey has been ired by Greece seeking to expand its sea border in the Ionian off the country’s west coast from six to 12 miles.
Turkey is apparently worried that could happen in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean where the two countries have contradictory claims and as Turkey doesn’t recognize the UN’s Laws of the Sea nor parts of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where the drilling, including by the American energy giant ExxonMobil has begun despite warnings from Ankara.
The maps were prepared before Cyprus’ demarcation agreements with Egypt in 2003, Lebanon in 2007 and Israel in 2010. The pacts allowed Cyprus to delimit its EEZ in its southern and southeastern seas, which led to division of maritime areas into 13 parts and proceeded with international tenders for their exploration and exploitation.
Considering the agreements legally void, Turkey claimed all the maritime regions west of Cyprus as part of the Turkish continental shelf, recognizing only Cyprus’ territorial waters at the same time it doesn’t recognize the legitimate government on Cyprus and bars its ships and planes.
Analysts told the newspaper that Turkey is trying to position itself around recently formed alliances in the region between Greece, Israel, Cyprus and Egypt, as well as Cyprus’ energy projects and the prospect of potentially lucrative energy finds.
Turkey also seems worried by American ambitions, reported by Kathimerini earlier, to set up a security organization in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East based on the cooperation of countries like Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Jordan.
The potential creation of such an organization will be discussed during the strategic dialogue between Greece and the US in Washington on December 13, as well as the trilateral summits between Greece, Cyprus and Israel on December 19 and 20.
Greek diplomatic sources were not surprised by Kathimerini’s article presenting Turkish maps containing the neighboring country’s claims in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying “it is nothing new” and have long known.
Greece’s foreign and defense ministries have “systematically” countered these claims, always within the rules of international law, they said.