German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas yesterday called on Turkey to refrain from more provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“If the new Turkish exploration operations for gas actually take place in the disputed maritime areas in the eastern Mediterranean, this would be a major setback for de-escalation efforts,” Maas, who visited Greece and Cyprus yesterday, said in a statement, adding: “Ankara must end the interplay between detente and provocation if the government is interested in talks – as it has repeatedly affirmed.”
Earlier on Monday, Turkey sparked a new wave of tension after announcing that its Oruc Reis vessel would return to the same disputed area in the Eastern Mediterranean region to continue drilling for gas.
In August and September the ship caused severe diplomatic and military tensions and led to competing naval exercises to search for potential deposits of oil and gas deep in the sea.
In his statement, the German foreign minister said his country stands in full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus as fellow members of the European Union and urged Turkey to ensure that dialogue with Athens is not thwarted by “unilateral measures”.
Ankara first deployed the Oruc Reis seismic research vessel and warship to disputed waters on 10 August and extended the mission, ignoring repeated calls to stop by Athens and the European Union. The vessel will be joined in the latest “seismic survey” mission by two other ships called Ataman and Cengiz Han, according to a NAVTEX message.
Turkey and Greece are at odds over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean. Greece claims rights over the waters around Kastellorizo but Turkey rejects this, insisting it has greater claims to the Eastern Mediterranean because it has a longer coastline.