Turkey proceeded with what was seen as a serious escalation of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean on Monday with the new navigational advisory, or navtex, it issued for exploratory activities by its Oruc Reis survey vessel in a region reaching up to 6.5 nautical miles from Kastellorizo, which is an area where Greece reserves the right to extend its sovereignty from 6 to 12 nautical miles.
Despite the fact that Athens remains, in principle, in favor of dialogue, it is becoming increasingly clear that, at this stage at least, it will be extremely difficult for exploratory contacts to resume.
The main reason attributed for Turkey’s resumption of its tactics of tensions is thought to be Athens’ refusal to accept that the agenda of the exploratory contacts between the two countries will include anything beyond the continental shelf and the sea zones.
This pressure from Ankara for a full-fledged dialogue intensified, even after the conclusions of the European Summit on October 1-2 left open the possibility of sanctions.
The possibility of sanctions was made clear over the last few days by Athens, especially after the brief talks between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Bratislava last Thursday.
European Council President Charles Michel spoke on Monday with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as well as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who blamed Athens for the new crisis.
In Ankara, analysts estimate that Turkey’s move may prompt the European Union and the US to pressure the Greek government to expand the agenda of the exploratory contacts.
As far as Berlin is concerned, Ankara’s opening of the ghost town of Varosha in Cyprus in violation of United Nations resolutions and Monday’s navtex, is reportedly indicative of Erdogan’s decision to ignore German initiatives aimed at de-escalating tension in the region.
The decision by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to call off a visit to Ankara, apart from dissatisfaction, also suggests an attempt by Berlin not to be further exposed to the Turkish ambivalence.
What’s more, in another contentious move, official tests are expected from Tuesday until Friday of the Russian S-400 missile systems in the Black Sea.