In a sign of more bilateral tension to come, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday described the Muslim minority in Greece’s northeastern region of Thrace as “Turks of western Thrace.”
Greece recognizes the Muslim community of Thrace as a religious minority and not an ethnic one.
Cavusoglu reportedly made his comments during a meeting with representatives of the self-styled Advisory Committee of the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace who arrived in Turkey to discuss issues relevant to the minority.
Athens made no official comment on the issue and likewise did not respond to information emanating from Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot media reports that Ankara plans to procure a floating drillship in order to commence drilling for natural gas in Turkish and Cypriot territorial waters in the Eastern Mediterranean in early 2018.
According to Turkish reports, Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) was assessing candidate drillships, among them the Deepsea Metro II, from South Korea. The financial cost of the drilling operation is estimated at US$200 million.
“We have high hopes after the research we have conducted in the region,” said Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, adding that Turkey will soon “begin drilling in Turkish and Cypriot waters.”
Athens and Nicosia are concerned that Turkish drilling will take place in blocks 1, 4, 6 and 7 of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone whose sovereignty Turkey disputes.