Greece Mulls Response if Turkey Puts Energy Ship Off Kastellorizo

Kastellorizo, Greece. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Giorgos Kontarinis)

With Turkey having sent a drill ship into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to look for oil and gas – accompanied by a warship – Greek authorities are reportedly preparing to deal with another being sent off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, near the Turkish coast.

Worries have been rising there could be a conflict, accidental or otherwise, in the Aegean or East Mediterranean as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with relations worsening with the United States, steps up his rhetoric and is backing it up by sending vessels into the seas around Greece and Cyprus.

The drillship Fatih is already in Cyprus’ EEZ and Turkish authorities have indicated that a second vessel, the Yavuz, will also be dispatched to the region in due course with Cyprus saying it would issue international arrest warrants for the crew of the Turkish drillship.

That led Turkey to fire back it would take “the necessary response,” indicating possible military or naval intervention although the European Union and the United States – the Sixth Fleet has ships in the area near where US company ExxonMobil is drilling off the island – backing Cyprus.

Cyprus’ Foreign Ministry declined to say whether arrest warrants have been issued or not. But Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said that “some companies” assisting Turkey’s drilling bid have “disengaged” from their involvement with tension ratcheting up.

Greece is anxious that Erdogan, who said he openly covets the return of Greek islands his country ceded away under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that he doesn’t recognize, will now make an incursion by an energy ship off Kastellorizo, in Greece’s continental shelf, a mile from Turkey.

No decision has been made what to do though if that happens, said Katherimini, citing sources it didn’t identify, with no indication whether Greece would then militarily intervene, possibly setting up a showdown similar to the 1996 crisis off the rocky, uninhabited islets of Imia where it also went to war with Turkey.

Greece is trying to cool down the tensions with Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis insisting that  a second round of exploratory talks between Greek and Turkish officials will go ahead as scheduled on June 19-22 although a last round did nothing to ease worries or make progress.