Amid the recent rise in tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Saturday that Greece’s intention is not to carry out scientific research in the area but instead to violate Turkey’s continental shelf.
Çavuşoğlu, speaking during a joint press conference with his Venezuelan counterpart, underlined that the western border of Turkey’s continental shelf was determined with the maritime deal struck with Libya and that these borders were also registered by the United Nations.
Reiterating that all kinds of necessary precautions were taken to prevent violations of Turkey’s continental shelf, Çavuşoğlu said: “Most recently, Greece wanted to make scientific research and violated our continental shelf partly, even if just 1 kilometer. Their intent is not to make scientific research in this 1 kilometer but to violate our continental shelf.”
He added that Turkey issued a navigational telex (Navtex) and made the necessary warnings.
“Similarly, our naval forces interrogated this ship and then did not allow it to enter this region.”
After Greece’s move, a similar act came from the Greek Cypriot administration; Turkey’s top diplomat said that the necessary answer was given there as well.
“Their aim is to violate. They have a maximalist approach. On the other hand, they complain about Turkey to the international community,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that Greece and the Greek Cypriots make several statements about Turkey a day.
Tensions are once again rising between Turkey and Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration over maritime borders and drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean after several months of relative calm.
Last week, sources in the Greek Cypriot administration cited by local media rejected Ankara’s calls to stop explorations by a research vessel commissioned south of the divided island. The research vessel Nautical Geo had begun an ultrasonic study of the seabed south of the port city of Limassol last week.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Naval Forces Command pushed the research vessel back when it violated Turkey’s continental shelf, Defense Ministry sources said following the incident.
Turkey has sent drillships with a military escort to explore for energy on its continental shelf, stressing that it and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have rights in the region. To reduce tensions, Turkey has called for dialogue to ensure the fair sharing of the region's resources.
Furthermore, tensions have also been riding high because Greece has been bolstering its military recently.
Despite having said that it has no intention of entering into an arms race with its neighbor and NATO ally Turkey, Greece announced recently the purchase of three new Belharra frigates from France with the option for one more.
Earlier last month, Greece also announced that it was planning to buy another six Rafale fighter aircraft.
The announcement of boosting military ties with France comes after Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated recently that secondhand French Rafale jets will not change the power balance in the region.
Speaking then on Athens’ purchase of French Rafale jets, Akar had said: “They have been engaging in an arms race. They buy jets, arms, equipment. It is not possible to change the power balance with a few secondhand jets.”
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by European Union members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the TRNC. Both sides cite a range of decades-old treaties and international agreements to support their conflicting territorial claims.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations. Instead of opting to solve problems with Ankara through dialogue, Athens has, on several occasions, refused to sit at the negotiation table and has chosen to rally Brussels to take a tougher stance against Turkey.