Undeterred, Turkish Energy Ship Operating Near Island of Kastellorizo

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

(Ibrahim Laleli/DHA via AP)

The Turkish energy ship the Oruc Reis has taken up position in waters off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, scuttling planned talks in Ankara with Greek officials over seas boundaries and unchecked by the Greek navy.

The vessel was in the East Mediterranean and was already taking readings on Oct. 14, Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said, a move ratcheting up tension again after lessening when the ship earlier had been pulled back.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, where Turkey is also drilling, had taken off the table their demand for the European Union to impose sanctions to give diplomacy a chance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's almost instant reaction was to snub his nose at the EU, Greece and Turkey and send the ship back in again although it wasn't said if it was escorted by warships as it had been twice before.

Turkey disputes parts of Greek waters and claimed seas around islands under a maritime deal with Libya unrecognized by another country, Greece countering with a similar agreement with Egypt.

Greece said the Oruc Reis' presence was a “major escalation” of their dispute over maritime rights and claims to hydrocarbon resources in the region but did nothing about it.

“Oruc Reis has reached the area in the eastern Mediterranean where it will carry out its activities. Tests began ... and we are beginning to receive the first seismic readings,” Donmez told a conference by video link.

The United States criticized the decision but at the same time had backed Turkey's assertions the waters are disputed, playing both countries against each other. The EU gave Turkey until the end of the year to pull out or reach a resolution with Greece.