GR US

Turkey Steps Up East Med Claims, Energy Drilling, Wants Greek Islands

Αssociated Press

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

Already drilling in Cypriot waters for oil and gas, Turkey indicated it will expand to other parts of the East Mediterranean after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said the hunt for energy would take place off Crete as well.

That would be under a maritime deal signed with Libya dividing the seas between them, an agreement unrecognized by any other country although Turkey wants the United Nations to ratify a map it sent claiming vast swaths of the seas.

As Turkey said it would proceed with drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, a university rector and the head of an organization linked to the ruling AK Party made claims on 12 Greek islands, Western Thrace and parts of Crete.

Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said seismic surveys will take place in the Eastern Mediterranean, including areas identified in the deal with Libya which Greece denounced but there was no indication the Hellenic Navy would be used.

Donmez pointed out that the process to license the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) has already begun and “the first seismic survey activity will begin” as soon as it is completed.

He told the state news agency Anadolu that Turkey won't back down from its plans to start drilling in July with the European Union reluctant to confront Erdogan, fearful he will send more refugees and migrants to the bloc, mainly through Greek islands.

Anadolu Agency said that dozens of nongovernmental organizations plan to take up a claim with the International Court of Justice in The Hague that 12 of Greece’s eastern Aegean islands, areas of Crete, Western Thrace, Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq, and the Crimea, legally belong to Turkey.

That claim makes the argument that Crete is an island with a predominantly Turkish population and was given to Turkey in the 1913 Treaty of London, but was then unlawfully taken by Greece.

The claims were made in Anadolu by the Vice Rector of the University of Istanbul, Ilyas Topsakal, and Halit Kanak, President of the Turkish World Solidarity and Beneficiary Association – an umbrella for 100 NGOs known for their close ties to the ruling AKP.