Turkey revisits its East Med claims

Turkey revisits its East Med claims

In what was viewed as another display of nationalistic rhetoric aimed at a domestic audience on Thursday, Turkey announced its intention to proceed with drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, while a university rector and the head of an organization linked to the ruling AK Party set their sights on 12 Greek islands, Western Thrace and parts of Crete.

More specifically, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez announced that seismic surveys will take place in the Eastern Mediterranean, including areas identified in the maritime border memorandum signed by Turkey and the Tripoli-based government in Libya.

Donmez pointed out that the process to license the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) has already begun and “the first seismic survey activity will begin” as soon as it is completed.

Speaking to the state news agency Anadolu, Donmez said Turkey has already made a lot of preparations and is committed to its plans both in the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea, and to begin drilling activities in July.

Donmez’s statements came as Ankara continues to regularly reinforce Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of Libya's Tripoli-based government, with a significant naval force of at least five frigates which are patrolling the area outside Tripoli.

At the same time, the European Union’s naval operation Irini is continuing, albeit at a slow pace. On Thursday, the Greek frigate Hydra sailed to the Crete Naval Base and will immediately join the operation south of the island.

Meanwhile, according to Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency, dozens of nongovernmental organizations plan to take up a claim with the International Court of Justice in The Hague that 12 of Greece’s eastern Aegean islands, areas of Crete, Western Thrace, Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq, and the Crimea, legally belong to Turkey.

The agency’s report carries the claim that Crete is an island with a predominantly Turkish population and that it was given to Turkey in the 1913 Treaty of London, but was then illegally conquered by Greece.

The claims were made in Anadolu by the vice rector of the University of Istanbul, Ilyas Topsakal, and Halit Kanak, president of the Turkish World Solidarity and Beneficiary Association – an umbrella for 100 NGOs known for their close ties to the ruling AKP.

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