Turkey on Sunday issued a new navigational telex (NAVTEX) announcing that its research vessel Oruc Reis will continue conducting seismic operations within the Greek continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean, prompting another round of tensions between the two countries.
Antalya’s announcement reads that the vessel will be searching for oil and gas until November 14, with two other vessels, the Ataman and Cengiz Han accompanying Oruc Reis.
Reacting to the announcement, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Turkey to “immediately retract the illegal NAVTEX” issued, citing that it undermines the prospect of a constructive dialogue.
“These actions show once again that Turkey is continuing to act in defiance of the appeals of the international community, including the Conclusions of the October meeting of the European Council, which called on Turkey to cease these actions,” the statement reads.
Turkey replied that Greece is “repeating its baseless claims” regarding Oruc Reis’ seismic survey activity in what it says to be its own continental shelf.
“It is a futile effort by Greece to voice its objections to our activities by asserting its maximalist claims after each and every NAVTEX announcement,” a statement by Hami Aksoy, spokesperson of the Turkish MFA reads.
The announcement by Antalya’s services came two days after a powerful earthquake struck off Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, killing at least 22 people. Turkey reported 20 deaths and more than 780 injuries, while Greece said that two teenagers lost their lives and 8 were injured.
“This action creates further tension in a vulnerable region in which attention is now focused on the provision of assistance and on expressions of support and solidarity,” the statement by the Greek MFA further reads.
Following the 7.0 magnitude tremor, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis offered his condolences, writing in a Twitter post:
“Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together.” His Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed the move, saying that “Turkey, too is always ready to help Greece heal its wounds.”
“The fact that two neighbours show solidarity in difficult times is more valuable than many things in life,” Erdogan added.
Earlier in the month, the two NATO allies had agreed to resume exploratory talks on the Eastern Mediterranean, amid mounting calls by the European Union to proceed with dialogue.
They also agreed to set up a mechanism, which is designed to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the region and includes the creation of a hotline between Athens and Ankara that will facilitate deconfliction at sea or in the air.
“We hereby invite Greece, once again, to dialogue with Turkey in order to address both the issue of maritime jurisdiction areas in the Eastern Mediterranean and other interrelated issues between the two countries, without preconditions,” Aksoy added in Sunday’s announcement.