Turkey plans to send a rig to drill inside the Greek continental shelf and specifically to the areas where it has declared successive navigational advisories (navtex) for its Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel, south of the southeastern Aegean island of Kastellorizo.
Ankara’s plans were revealed by Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez during an interview with NTV, in which he, once again, claimed that the Turkish research ship was conducting seismic surveys inside the “Turkish continental shelf,” stressing that the Oruc Reis’ area of activity is south of the port towns of Antalya and Kas.
“It is in our continental shelf,” Donmez said, adding that the Oruc Reis is currently making 2D seismic surveys. “I imagine we will complete them in two months. Then in the same area we will do 3D seismic surveys and, as I mentioned before, if we find an area with high expectations, we will send our drilling rig to do our first research drilling,” he added. Donmez said Ankara is careful not to enter areas within the territorial waters of the islands.
“We started from our southern border, now we are working further north near Anatolia, closer to the mainland and so far there has been no negative event,” he said.
Donmez’s announcements came after Ankara on Sunday declared an expanded area of responsibility for search and rescue in the Aegean Sea, reaching up to 6 miles from Crete, as well as west of Kasos and Karpathos. Turkish Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said the aim is to include areas covered in Turkey’s Blue Homeland doctrine, which envisages vast areas under Turkish influence in the Mediterranean. He also presented a relevant map which basically shows half the Aegean as being Turkish.
Athens briefed United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Athens has insisted it will not take the bait that it sees being laid by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which would lead either to a military engagement or force a dialogue with an agenda of his choosing. Referring to Turkey’s actions, a government source told Kathimerini that “Erdogan’s moves do not produce a legal effect.”
Meanwhile, the Cyprus issue entered uncharted waters after Ankara-backed hardliner Ersin Tatar won Sunday’s runoff in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. Tatar is a fervent backer of a two-state solution for the divided island.