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Politics

Tension Rising, Turkey Sends Energy Hunt Ship Off Greek Island Kastellorizo

Furious over a deal Greece signed with Egypt to set sea boundaries and designate Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ's) where energy research can take place, Turkey has sent a survey vessel off the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

The Oruc Reis seismic vessel was dispatched earlier this month along with a warship but pulled back after it seemed the countries were on the verge of a conflict, the tension broken when German Chancellor Angela Merkel convinced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pull them back. 

The Turkish ship reached its destination, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez said, the state-run Anadolu News Agency reported, although it wasn't specified exactly where that was.

“Our MTA Oruc Reis seismic research vessel, reached the operation area after departing from Antalya, for its new mission in Mediterranean. Eighty-three  million Turkish people support you, Oruc Reis,” Donmez was cited as saying by Anadolu in a tweet.

He also said that Ankara’s research activities in the Mediterranean and Black Sea “will continue nonstop” to achieve “Turkey's energy independence,” raising the stakes again as Erdogan stepped up provocations, ignoring criticism from the European Union and United States as well as Greece.

The move was done through the issuance of a navigational telex (NAVTEX) reserving the waters for Turkish ships until Aug. 23 and Turkey also started naval exercises near Kastellorizo and Rhodes.

That led Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to call an emergency meeting Aug. 10 of the country's top decision-making body on foreign affairs and defense matters, KYSEA, the paper said, although it wasn't known if Greek naval and military forces were put on alert as they had been earlier.

Erdogan accused Greece of failing to abide by pledges that convinced Turkey to halt offshore work while Merkel began mediating, said the financial news agency Bloomberg about the rising tension.

Turkey disputes parts of Greece's Continental Shelf and sovereign waters, claiming them under the United Nations Law of the Sea that Edogan refuses to recognize unless invoking to his advantage.

Turkey said a country’s continental shelf should be measured from its mainland, and that the area south of the Greek island — just a few kilometers off Turkey’s southern coast – falls within Turkey's EEZ, ignoring that land borders touch.

Greece said that islands must also be taken into account in delineating a country’s continental shelf, in line with the Law of the Sea, giving it the sole right to the area regardless of the island’s proximity to Turkey, the news agency said.

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, gave his usual expression of concern, the bloc unable to do anything to stop Turkey and refusing to issue tough sanctions, fearful that Erdogan will unleash more refugees on Europe through Greek islands.

He urged dialogue and diplomacy which has repeatedly failed, adding in a statement – EU officials rarely give news conferences to avoid being asked questions by reporters, preferring to do policy by press release and tweets – that  the “Latest naval mobilizations in Eastern Mediterranean are extremely worrying. They will not contribute to finding any solutions. On the contrary, they will lead to a greater antagonism and distrust. Maritime boundaries must be defined through dialogue and negotiations, not through unilateral actions and mobilisation of naval forces.” He was ignored again by Erdogan as usual.

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