In a sign of growing assertiveness in the region, Ankara said it will dispatch a vessel to conduct two- and three- dimensional seismic surveys for hydrocarbon deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In comments made over the weekend, Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha boat, which was recently acquired from Norway, will arrive off Cyprus’s northern coast by April 15. Yildiz said the vessel will conduct research within Turkey’s territorial waters as well as in a 800-cubic-kilometer stretch off Cyprus.
Greek officials are concerned the Turkish vessel will try to collect data in the area south of Rhodes and Kastellorizo islands and within Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone.
In February, Athens submitted a note verbale to the UN notifying international officials of Ankara’s granting of exploration permits for areas deemed to cover the Greek continental shelf.
Turkey has challenged Greece’s sovereign rights south of Rhodes and Kastellorizo and the right of the Aegean islands to a continental shelf. It claims that the Aegean should be treated as a special case as the islands are so close to the Turkish coast.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who on Sunday met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Istanbul, repeated that Turkey is ready to negotiate a two-state solution to the Cyprus problem if no agreement is reached with regard to the joint exploitation of the island’s natural gas reserves.
Davutoglu said the Greek-Cypriot administration was making a “grave mistake” on the issue.