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Politics

Turkey Will Challenge Greece, Cyprus with Mediterranean Drilling

ANKARA – Stepping up provocations after a NATO meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will, as he vowed, again send an energy research vessel into the Mediterranean, around – or in – Greek and Cypriot waters.

After getting a promise from US President Joe Biden that the American leader would try to convince Congress to approve selling more F-16’s and upgrading Turkey’s Air Force, Erdogan has turned his attention to the seas again.

Turkey’s fourth drilling ship will start work in the first half of August and probably in the Mediterranean, Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said, but where it will operate wasn’t given, reported Kathimerini.

Turkey earlier sent an energy ship and warships off Kastellorizo before pulling them back as the European Union was being urged by Greece to impose sanction but Erdogan said he would send them back, including off Crete.

Donmez said the research ship  Abdul Hamid Khan will go into an as-yet unspecified area of Turkey’s declared Blue Homeland map that includes Greek and Cypriot waters whose sovereignty Turkey openly questions, adding more tension.

The newspaper said that Erdogan is likely using the moment not just to resume an energy hunt in a field that’s lucrative and adding to the tension over the seas but would make a political decision, including a test against Greece and Cyprus.

Donmez said that Turkey has been conducting research “in areas under its own jurisdiction” in recent years but if the rig goes deeper into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where Turkey had been drilling it could prompt a showdown.

In late June, Erdogan said that Turkey “will take all necessary steps to protect our rights in the Mediterranean and Aegean … with our four drilling rigs and our two seismic vessels, we are determined to continue our activities in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, without any interruption.”

The newspaper said that Turkey might also work with Libyan hydrocarbon exploration company under an agreement the two countries made earlier to divide the seas between them.

The Abdul Hamid Khan is 238 meters (780.84 feet) long and 42 meters (137.8 feet) wide, and is considered the most powerful among Turkey’s drilling fleet.

In 2021, Turkey announced that it discovered deposits of 400 billion cubic meters in the Black Sea.

In 2026 the Turkish government said it wants to get 25 percent of its gas needs from fields it has discovered. Turkey now gets 44.9 perent of its gas from Russia, whose supplies have been exempted from European Union sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, which sparked an energy crisis.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the NATO meeting – where Erdogan kept to a vow not to speak to him – that Turkey was behaving against international law.

Mitsotakis noted he was referring to “the constant aggressive behavior of Turkey,” with relations worsening and NATO, to which they both belong, refusing to intervene over Turkey’s violation of Greek airspace and waters.

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