Greece looks to gauge Turkey’s steps after Ankara-Tripoli pact
Following the controversial deal signed between Libya’s UN-supported government and Turkey on maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, which was condemned on Friday by European Union leaders for being in breach of international laws, officials in Athens are trying to establish exactly when and where Ankara will choose to escalate tension in the region by sending an exploration vessel to an area of Greek interests.
Information that has emerged in recent weeks and the operations schedule of Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) suggests that Ankara has begun treating the area stretching from the coast of Cyprus to the south of Crete as a unified operational area for the Turkish Navy and TPAO.
Athens officials are on the alert at the prospect that Turkey will send its Barbaros research vessel to an area designated in the Turkey-Libya accord after it leaves an area off the southern coast of Cyprus on December 21.
According to sources, Turkish plans envision the return of the Barbaros to the port of Tasucu in southern Turkey opposite Cyprus’ Karpasia Peninsula. The concern is that Ankara could test Greece’s resolve by sending the vessel to a maritime block inside the Libyan EEZ as claimed in the recent pact. This would create a precedent within the zone, which Greece says for the most part lies within Crete’s continental shelf.
If TPAO, with the aid of the Turkish Navy, tries to conduct energy exploration further north – particularly in the area from Kasos and Karpathos to Rhodes and Kastellorizo – it would be evidence of Ankara wanting to escalate tension in the direction of militarizing the crisis.