The Turkish Defense Ministry on Monday released a photograph showing its oil exploration vessel, the Oruc Reis, being escorted by five Turkish Navy vessels into its position in the sea, approximately midway between the island nation of Cyprus and Crete –in eastern Mediterranean.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement, issued at the same time, that “The Turkish Armed Forces have taken all necessary measures… to protect our rights and interests under international law in the maritime zones under our jurisdiction.”
Later in the afternoon, it was reported in Greek media that the Oruc Reis had been stopped from conducting seismic tests after a number of Greek Navy vessels appeared in the area, with their noise interfering with the sound signals sent out by the Turkish vessel to such a great degree that the seismic tests were impossible to carry out.
Turkey issued an international maritime alert known as NAVTEX Monday morning regarding seismic survey to be conducted by Oruc Reis from 10th to 20th of August. The designated area is reported to be in the EEZ of Greece-Egypt agreement.
“For us, the agreement is non-existent,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding: “There is no maritime border between Greece and Egypt. For Turkey, the alleged border demarcation agreement announced today was non-existent. This view of ours will be done both on the front and on the table.”
Last Thursday Greece and Egypt signed a deal to create an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in waters that contain potentially rich oil and gas deposits.
The deal however conflicts with a rival EEZ that Turkey and the internationally-recognized government in Libya have sought to establish. Such zones can extend for 200 nautical miles.
The latest move by Turkey was expected, says an observer, with the signing of the maritime demarcation agreement between Greece and Egypt.
The Oruc Reis’s two-week mission challenges Greek-Egyptian gas exploration deal.
It has put Greece on alert. Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis called a meeting with military chiefs on Monday, after Turkey issued the Navtex.
Greece and Turkey are both Nato members, but have a history of border disputes.