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Turkey to continue drilling in eastern Mediterranean with UK ship

An aerial photo shows Turkish-flagged drill ship Fatih' continue offshore drilling operations in company with Turkish battleship and a helicopter in the west of the Island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea on July 11, 2019 [Turkish National Defence Ministry / Handout - Anadolu Agency]
An aerial photo shows Turkish-flagged drill ship Fatih' continue offshore drilling operations in company with Turkish battleship and a helicopter in the west of the Island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea on 11 July 2019 [Turkish National Defence Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

Turkey has purchased its third offshore drilling ship which will arrive in the country in the next two weeks, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Monday.

“We ordered a new drilling ship from Britain called Sertao,” Donmez told an energy conference in Istanbul. “We will give it a national name which is not clear now. Turkey awaits delivery of the ship, which is very important to preserve the rights of Turkish Cypriots and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Having bought its first two drilling vessels from Norway, Turkey purchased the Sertao at an auction in Britain for much less than its predicted market value of around $120 million. It had lain unsold in Port Talbot, in Wales, for nearly two years after the company which owned it went bankrupt.

According to a Turkish maritime publication, the ship was bought by the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation for $37.5 million.

Turkey has been carrying out exploration and drilling activities within the country’s maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean since last year, using two drilling ships, Fatih and Yavuz.

The Greek government and the Greek Cypriot administration oppose Turkey’s drilling and have threatened to arrest the ships’ crews. The Greeks have enlisted EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s activities in the area as well.

The EU has also repeatedly called on Turkey to give up its claim to a share in the energy resources of the eastern Mediterranean, claiming that its activities are “illegal”. The bloc imposed sanctions on the Republic in July last year over the issue, as well as due to Turkey’s military incursion – Operation Peace Spring – in northern Syria in October.

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the area, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also has rights to the resources according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In 1974, following a coup against Greece’s annexation of Cyprus, Turkey intervened as a guarantor power. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded in 1983.

Eastern Mediterranean: A new hotbed of tensions at the European doorstep

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