Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday that Turkey has taken all measures in the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea to avoid provocations and a fait accompli.
Akar said that Turkey wants to solve the existing problems in the Aegean Sea within the framework of international law and good neighborly relations, and that all efforts are being exerted with a good will. Akar added: "That being said, a fait accompli will not be allowed in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. All necessary measures are being taken in a decisive manner."
Fragile ties between Turkey and Greece have fallen to new lows following the Greek courts' repeated refusal to extradite eight alleged putschist ex-Turkish soldiers in the wake of the 2016 defeated coup and Turkey's detentio
n last month of two Greek soldiers.
The first quarter of 2018 has been particularly tense. Apart from the soldiers issue, the Greek Cypriots' unilateral hydrocarbon search activities is a matter of grave concern to Turkey. Greek Cyprus has been trying to exclude Turkish Cyprus and Turkey, which has been conducting seismic surveys in the area and exercising its legal rights in accordance with international maritime law.
The issue has reignited old tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. In February, the Cypriot administration commissioned Italian energy company ENI, which declared the discovery of a potentially sizable gas field off the southwestern coast close to Egypt's Zohr deposit, which is the largest-ever discovered in the Mediterranean. However, Turkey immediately deployed warships to the region and prevented the Italian energy firm from continuing its operations in the region. As a result, ENI's drilling vessel left the area. The disregard for Turkish Cyprus's rights in the region did not stop with the ENI vessel. Following the Turkish Navy's blockade of ENI, early in March, vessels from U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil and state-owned Qatar Petroleum consortium were reported to have arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean to conduct offshore drilling activities.
The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 into a predominantly Greek south, wh
ich is an EU member, and a Turkish north whose sovereignty is only recognized by Ankara.