Turkey's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the Greek Foreign Ministry claim over Turkish maritime jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean was “unfortunate and misleading.”
“At the core of the Eastern Mediterranean issue lies the maximalist maritime jurisdiction area claims of the Greek/Greek Cypriot duo as well as the disregard of the Turkish Cypriots and their rights as the co-owners of the Island by both Greece and the EU,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hami Aksoy, said in a statement.
The statement added that “the maritime jurisdiction area claims brought forward by Greece as if she was an archipelagic state, disregarding the principle of just and equitable delimitation, which is the primary rule in maritime boundary delimitation, are indeed the violation of international law. The most striking exhibit of this, as referred to in our previous statements, is the island of Kastellorizo/Megisti.”
Aksoy also noted that Turkey will continue to keep the diplomatic and cooperation channels open while protecting, with determination, both its own rights and those of Turkish Cypriots.
Ankara and Libya's U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in November 2019 signed two separate memoranda of understanding, one on military cooperation and another on the countries' maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The deal enabled Turkey to secure its rights in the Mediterranean while preventing any fait accompli by other regional states.
However, Greece, one of the main regional actors, did not welcome the deal and regarded it as a violation of its rights, though international law proves otherwise.
Referring to the deal as a "provocation," the Greek prime minister stated that Ankara's move "will not produce internationally legal results," claiming that it "cannot challenge the sovereign rights of our islands."
According to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, while a country is able to stretch its territorial waters only 12 nautical miles out to sea, when it comes to the exclusive economic zone, where it has the rights to fishing, mining, and drilling, the area can extend for an additional 200 miles. However, if the maritime distance between the two countries is less than 424 miles, a bilateral deal is needed to determine a mutually agreed-upon dividing line for their respective exclusive economic zones. Greece, on the other hand, claims that the islands also have their own exclusive economic zones and with this claim, it reduces Turkey's zone remarkably while twisting what the international law states.
Despite the fact that Turkey has the longest shoreline in the region when it comes to the drilling activities, no country has felt the need to consult or engage in dialogue with Ankara on the issue. Still, until very recently, Ankara expressed willingness to establish dialogue channels with the various regional countries, and yet all its attempts fell flat with no response. Egypt even organized the East Mediterranean Gas Forum this year, inviting all the regional countries, except for Turkey.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus' annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries – Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. – ended in 2017 in Switzerland. Turkey dispatched its drilling vessel Fatih earlier this month from the southern port of Antalya with three support vessels and a frigate to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) west of the island of Cyprus to launch the drilling of a second well in the Eastern Mediterranean. The vessel will continue operations until Sept. 3.
Turkey's first seismic vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa, bought from Norway in 2013, has been exploring in the Mediterranean since April 2017.