Turkey has announced that it is resuming exploratory surveys in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean, prompting immediate furious responses from Europe and the US media.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry stated that the renewed efforts of Turkey’s seismic research vessel, the Oruc Reis, in the Eastern Mediterranean will be within the Turkish continental shelf, hundreds of kilometres away from the Greek mainland.
Responding to a Greek statement denouncing Turkey’s NAVTEX (navigational telex) in the region, the ministry said in a written statement that the vessel had undergone maintenance in Turkey’s southern Port of Antalya for a month and would continue its activities until October 22.
The Navtex advisory statement said the ship would be active in an area 425 kilometres off the Greek mainland and 15 kilometres from Turkey. LINK
The decision has infuriated the EU and the US.
Turkey had withdrawn the vessel from the disputed waters last month to “allow for diplomacy” before an EU summit at which Turkey was threatened with sanctions if it continued exploratory operations in the disputed area.
“Turkey has proved it lacks credibility. All those who believed Turkey meant all it said before the European summit of Oct. 1-2 now stand corrected,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Monday.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry described the new voyage as a “major escalation” and a “direct threat to peace in the region.”
EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said the bloc would discuss the matter later this week, adding that the new deployment “will lead to new tensions instead of contributing to de-escalation efforts we were calling for at the last European Council.”
“We consider that Turkey needs to engage actively in finding solutions and not to engage in negative behaviour.” LINK
Ahval reports that the German Foreign Minister cancelled a scheduled trip to Turkey within hours of the announcement that exploratory activities would resume in the disputed area.
Germany’s Foreign Minister cancelled a scheduled visit to Ankara, a few hours after Turkey announced it was sending again research vessel Oruc Reis for a new research mission in the eastern Mediterranean…
Asked by German media why Maas is not travelling to Turkey, the spokesperson simply reiterated that the minister’s plans includes only Greece and Cyprus. LINK
An opinion piece posted by the Washington Examiner called for the immediate imposition of sanctions:
Redeploying an energy survey vessel into Greece’s exclusive economic zone, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has proved that he requires sanctioning.
It is obvious that Erdogan is challenging the European Union to live up to its sanction threats. Following the Oruc Reis’ previous survey in August, the Turkish leader agreed to keep the vessel in port so as to facilitate dialogue with the EU and Greece. But his motives weren’t altruistic. Recognizing that Turkey’s actions are incompatible with Greece’s sovereign rights, the EU had threatened sanctions if Erdogan’s surveys continued. Erdogan, for a time, seemed to be inclined toward compromise. But this new survey proves that Erdogan has chosen to double down on escalation.
The central concern here is Erdogan’s belief that he can shred European security with impunity… Determined to build a neo-Ottoman empire centered in Sunni Islamic populism, Erdogan sees the public subjugation of his competitors as fuel to his legacy agenda. Hated by Turkish nationalists, Greece presents unique appeal in this regard. Erdogan appears to have used the pretense of a diplomatic resolution to this crisis in order only to make Greece and the EU appear desperate for compromise and reciprocally weak.
Erdogan must not be allowed to succeed in this gambit. LINK
There is not much doubt that the EU, and possibly also the US, will be forced to act upon their long standing threats to impose sanctions against Turkey after the re-commencement of the survey vessel’s activities.
Turkey’s military adventurism in northern Syria, Libya or even the southern Caucasus could be tolerated, albeit drawing the necessary rebukes. Persistently and flagrantly disputing the ‘teritorial integrity’ and sovereignty of an EU and NATO member-State, however, is another matter entirely.
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