Amid heightened regional tensions, a fourth Turkish ship, the Oruc Reis research vessel, is on its way to the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced Monday via his Twitter account.
The tweet came in response to comments by the leader of the opposition Turkish Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who had questioned why Turkey supposedly did not currently have a presence in the area.
Cavusoglu sarcastically remarked that Kilicdaroglu evidently believed that the Fatih, Yavuz and Barbaros that are active off the coast of Cyprus were Greek vessels.
For its part, Athens was not taken by surprise by Ankara’s latest move to send the Oruc Reis to the region, as it is seen as the culmination of a stated strategy by Turkey to encircle Cyprus as far as possible.
Moreover, as Kathimerini had revealed on July 28, the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) had requested the assistance of the Turkish Navy so that it can prospect for hydrocarbons within Greece’s continental shelf south of the southeastern Aegean island of Kastellorizo and west of Cyprus.
However, the timing of Ankara’s decision to dispatch the Oruc Reis has led to the suggestion that Turkey wants to expedite the effort to strengthen its presence in the region in response to assertions made by diplomatic sources that the vessel would arrive in September rather than at the end of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday on August 15.
Turkey has already established a presence in the region with its Yavuz and Fatih drillships and the Barbaros research vessel.
Meanwhile, it has issued a series of navigational telexes (navtex) since Friday reserving areas for naval exercises using live fire off Cyprus where the Fatih is conducting drilling operations.