The Turkish survey vessel “Oruc Reis” will return to the eastern Mediterranean from “October 12 to 20”, to the same area where it was already in August and September, and which generated strong tensions with Greece, the Turkish navy announced on Sunday.
The “Oruc Reis” will carry out activities in the region, including in the south of the Greek island of Kastelórizo, according to a message sent by the maritime alert system NAVTEX.
Turkey and Greece, both members of NATO, have experienced months of high tension after the deployment by Turkey, from August 10 to mid-September, of this seismic vessel, escorted by warships, to carry out surveys off the coast of this Greek island, located 2 km from Turkey, in an area potentially rich in natural gas.
The discovery of important gas fields in recent years has exacerbated long-standing disputes between Greece and Turkey over their maritime borders.
Greece defends that the waters surrounding Kastelórizo belong to it, a position rejected by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who believes that this “would lock Turkey within its shores.”
Ankara sent the seismic survey vessel “Oruc Reis” and warships to the disputed waters on August 10 and extended the mission, ignoring repeated calls from Greece and the European Union to suspend such explorations.
In this new “seismic surveillance” mission, two other ships called “Ataman” and “Cengiz Han” will be added, according to the message to NAVTEX.
The withdrawal of “Oruc Reis” last month from the disputed waters was seen as a sign that the two countries would opt for negotiations to resolve the crisis.
The Turkish president then said that diplomacy should be given a chance.
But the Turkish authorities have insisted that the ship would be maintained as scheduled and would return to the area to continue its work.
The negotiations have been stalled since 2016 and are expected to resume in Istanbul, although there is no scheduled date.
The foreign ministers of the two countries met last week during a security forum in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, in the highest-level meeting since tensions began.
The EU threatened earlier this month to impose sanctions on Turkey if authorities do not suspend what the bloc considers illegal prospecting in the waters claimed by Cyprus and Greece.
Turkey called these threats “unconstructive” but the latest decision will undoubtedly cause further friction in Ankara’s relationship with Brussels.
The head of German diplomacy, Heiko Maas, is scheduled to visit Ankara on Wednesday, according to Turkish state television, and the eastern Mediterranean will certainly be on the agenda.
raz / rbu / ybl / plh / af / rsr