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German Research Ship Caught in Greek-Turkish Aegean Tug ‘o War

January 5, 2018

ATHENS – Greece cancelled a license for a German ship and university staff to conduct research in the Aegean Sea after Turkey granted one, continuing a dispute over sovereignty of the waters.

The University of Heidelberg wanted to use the ship Meteor, owned by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education, for scientific research but Turkey issued a so-called NAVTEX declaring it owns that part of the sea and then gave a license for the ship’s operation.

That came after the ship was harassed in the sea area between Samothrace and Limnos in the northern Aegean by the Turkish Coast Guard, which warned the captain to leave, saying the vessel was in Turkish waters, Kathimerini said.

Greek military officials said it was a standard Turkish tactic to challenge Greece’s sovereign rights in the Aegean without explaining why Greece yanked the license, which came after the German Foreign Ministry, after the incident, asked Turkey for permission instead even though the waters are in Greece’s jurisdiction and the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR.) Turkey won’t recognize international laws governing seas.

Greece has reported the issue to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) rather than follow the usual course of action in these situations by issuing its own NAVTEX in response, the paper said.

Turkey then issued another NAVTEX – warning off other vessels – for area covering 41,000 square kilometers (15,830 square miles) off its southern coast, including almost the entirety of the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) where international companies are drilling for oil and gas.

That area includes Plot 6, where the Saipem 12000 deepwater drillship of the French-Italian consortium of energy giants Total and ENI has started drilling for hydrocarbons. The Turkish NAVTEX said it wants the same area for a warship to tow an underwater device in another provocation at the legitimate government of Cyprus with Turkey unlawfully occupying the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion.

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