ATHENS – Content for now with spiritual support from the European Union which is otherwise powerless beyond issuing sanctions, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government is trying to figure how to stop Turkey from drilling for energy in Greek waters.
Turkey and Libya signed a deal dividing the seas between them, with Turkey moving swiftly to claim ownership of waters off the major Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete after already drilling in Cypriot waters with no move to stop it from the United Nations, NATO or the European Union beyond soft sanctions.
The operations schedule of Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) suggests that Ankara has begun treating the area stretching from the coast of Cyprus to the south of Crete as a unified operational area for the Turkish Navy and the private company, said Kathimerini.
Without any word on whether the Greek Navy would be dispatched to the area off Crete, Greek officials were said to be on the alert that Turkey will send its Barbaros research vessel to an area designated in the Turkey-Libya accord after it leaves an area off the southern coast of Cyprus on Dec. 21, beginning to encroach on Greek seas Turkey claims.
Turkey plans to sent the Barbaros to the port of Tasucu in southern Turkey opposite Cyprus’ Karpasia Peninsula, the paper said it was told by sources that weren’t identified, raising the specter of a conflict if Turkey sends a vessel into a maritime block inside the Libyan EEZ as claimed in the recent pact. This would create a precedent within the zone, which Greece says for the most part lies within Crete’s continental shelf.
If TPAO, with the aid of the Turkish Navy, tries to conduct energy exploration further north – particularly in the area from Kasos and Karpathos to Rhodes and Kastellorizo – it would be evidence of Turkey wanting to escalate tension and even military force, it was said.
After saying he believed “goodwill” could de-escalate the growing tension, Mitsotakis has taken a stance of urging calm and trying to let diplomacy work while simultaneously seeking broader support from the EU, which he got absent sanctions on Turkey, which has been trying to join the bloc since 2005 to no avail.