The crossing of the Oruc Reis research vessel into the area of Greece’s continental shelf placed authorities in Athens in a state of alert on Friday, but the Turkish vessel was seen leaving the vicinity early on Saturday.
The ship on Friday was operating around 200 kilometers south of the island of island Kastellorizo, in a maritime area that Greece considers a potential exclusive economic zone, from 6.30 a.m. until about 5 p.m., when it turned eastward and moved outside the area of Greek responsibility.
In response, Greece dispatched the Nikiforos Fokas frigate, which had been moored at the island of Karpathos, to monitor the vessel, which was accompanied by two Turkish cargo ships and, at a distance, by two Turkish Navy frigates.
The Greek frigate radioed the Oruc Reis and asked it to leave the area. However, the crew of the Turkish vessel was reportedly dismissive of the request.
The Turkish vessel's arrival in Greek waters was attributed to the difficulties that the Oruc Reis was facing due to weather conditions in the Cyprus EEZ, where it has been conducting research activities in the last few days.
The government saw the move as a mild show of force by Ankara, and for that reason the Defense Ministry, in full cooperation with the prime minister's office, opted for a moderate approach to the issue.
Nonetheless, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and the chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), Konstantinos Floros, arrived on Friday afternoon at the Maximos Mansion to brief Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who will visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday before heading for the United Arab Emirates.
At the technocratic level, however, Turkey's move is viewed by the Foreign and Defense ministries as part of Ankara's expressed willingness to conduct research in an area it considers its own.
According to Ankara, the zone south of Kastellorizo is part of the EEZ and the continental shelf controlled by Turkey.
Meanwhile, the commander-in-chief of the NATO Joint Forces in Europe, General Todd Walters, was in Athens on Friday and met with Floros and Panagiotopoulos.
During the meeting, Greece’s concerns regarding Turkey’s stance were conveyed to the American commander, who had arrived in Athens from Ankara, where he had held talks with the chief of Turkey's armed forces, Yasar Guler.