Ankara raises stakes in Eastern Mediterranean

Ankara raises stakes in Eastern Mediterranean

In an apparent bid to entrench what it sees as its rights in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, Ankara has reserved an area stretching south from the Aegean island of Rhodes to the western coast of Cyprus to explore for oil and gas. 

Turkey dispatched the Fatih drillship on Friday morning from its southern port of Antalya with three support vessels and a frigate in the direction of a sea area 60 kilometers off the western coastal city of Paphos within Cyprus’ continental shelf, in violation of island nation’s sovereign rights. 

According to a navigational telex (Navtex) issued by Ankara, the Fatih will conduct exploratory activities southwest of an area where, according to Athens and Nicosia, the continental shelves of Greece and Cyprus meet. 

However, it remained unclear on Friday whether the Fatih will begin operations in this specific area or somewhere nearby. 

Athens is also anticipating how Ankara will proceed with its stated plans, revealed by Kathimerini last week, to conduct exploration further to the west and within the Greek continental shelf. 

Diplomatic sources said that Athens and Nicosia have notified their European Union and American partners about Turkey’s moves. 

Further to this end, Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ diplomatic adviser Vangelis Kalpadakis have reportedly embarked on a campaign to inform as many officials in the region as possible on the latest developments. 

Nonetheless, experienced observers have speculated that the absence of specialist crews and the requisite technical capabilities onboard the Turkish drillship are an indication that no substantial results should be expected from Ankara’s exploratory activities, which have placed both Greece and Cyprus on edge.

Bearing this in mind, Turkey’s moves are seen more as a gradual effort to entrench its demands in the region and to test the resolve of parties with interests in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, such the United States, France and Italy.

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