Greece and Cyprus have issued a counter-Navtex in answer to Turkey’s issuance of a similar alert for an area which lays within Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and is set to last until August 2.
On Wednesday, the Greek navy reported that the Navtex by Greece and Cyprus covers the same area and dates as that issued by Turkey. A Navtex was issued by Turkey’s navy for seismic survey work in an area apparently south of Turkey’s Antalya and lying between Cyprus and Crete.
On Tuesday, Greece accused Turkey of attempting to encroach on its continental shelf as the latter said it would send research and drill ships into Greece’s EEZ.
Turkey disputes Greece’s claim, pointing to a deal it signed with Libya.
It is a tactic tried and tested against Cyprus, but one which Turkey has so far refrained from using against other larger – and more heavily armed – EU state members.
The move comes amid reports of Turkey repeatedly violating Greek airspace and the controversial decision to revert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
The Turkish foreign ministry in a statement on Wednesday morning said the area to be surveyed until August 2 was within Turkey’s continental shelf and called Greece’s positions “maximalist”.
“The sea area in which Oruc Reis will conduct investigations is within the boundaries of our continental shelf that has been notified by our country to the UN and is within the limits that our government licensed to TPAO in 2012,” the statement said.
“While this is the situation, Greece opposed our research activity and claimed that this area is within its continental shelf. Greece bases this claim on the existence of islands far from its mainland, especially Kastelorizo. This maximalist claim of Greece regarding its continental shelf is contrary to international law, jurisprudence and court decisions,” it added.
The Turkish foreign ministry said it was not “a logical argument under international law” that an island with an area of 10 square kilometres which is located two kilometres from mainland Turkey, and 580 kilometres from mainland Greece to create a continental shelf of 40,000 sq.m, the statement added.
“That is why we reject these allegations of Greece,” the ministry added.
“While Turkey has so far on various occasions reiterated its call for dialogue at all levels with Greece, at the same time it will continue to defend legal rights. and interests arising from international law.”
The latest comments from the EU Commission urges Turkey to take any disputes it may have to the International Court of Justice and pursue dialogue to resolve disagreements.
“Turkey’s announcement of a new Navtex for seismic research in the eastern Mediterranean is not useful and sends the wrong message,” Nabila Massrali, an EU Commission spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Massrali said Turkey’s Navtex is especially concerning as the Foreign Affairs Council on EU-Turkey relations was held on recently, and with more work in the pipeline.
Tensions have been fraught in the eastern Mediterranean, despite efforts by the EU to calm tensions via dialogue. Repeated warnings by top EU officials and other member states have apparently done little, if anything, to dissuade Turkey from asserting itself in the region.
President Nicos Anastasiades, meanwhile, believes the EU should take a more decisive stance towards Turkey.
The deputy government spokesman, Panayiotis Sentonas, spoke to journalists on Wednesday at the presidential palace – and detailed the Republic’s position.
“I reiterate that during his recent speech at the European Council, the president called for the extension of measures towards Turkey.”
The Greek leader was also quick to condemn Turkey’s actions.
“Turkey is unfortunately adding another link in (its) hostile actions against Greece, against Cyprus and the European Union as a whole,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who was visiting Athens on Tuesday.
“Questioning the sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus is, ultimately, questioning the rights of Europe. We anticipate the support of our allies (for sanctions against Turkey)… As long as Turkey continues to take this path, sanctions on Turkey will be a one-way street.”
The calls from Greece for sanctions against Turkey are likely to go down well in many quarters in Cyprus. Parties within the Republic have long called for sanctions against Turkey, expressing frustration at what they perceive as much talk and little action taken against the key player in the neighbourhood.
Turkey, however, say it is acting within its legal and moral right.
“We do not depend on a licence from anyone, neither for seismic research ships nor for drill ships,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
Erdogan said that Turkey is acting according to international law and their rights in the eastern Mediterranean and will continue to do so.
In Mid-July, Josep Borrel, the EU’s top foreign affairs diplomat, visited Turkey amid ongoing discussions within the EU about possible sanctions.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said any such action would incur retaliation.
“If the EU takes additional decisions against Turkey, we will have to respond to this,” Cavusoglu told a news conference with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Turkey’s capital.