Tension rose to fever pitch on Tuesday as Greek and Turkish warships lined up against each other near Kastellorizo, while the Oruc Reis seismic survey ship came within less than 9 nautical miles from the island.
With the Turkish vessel – accompanied by warships – entering an area where Greece reserves the right to extend its territorial waters, a part of the Greek fleet lined up at a distance of 6 nautical miles from Kastellorizo.
At the same time, Greece is playing the European card, with Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias asking EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi to consider the suspension of the customs union with Turkey. Dendias also called on his German, Spanish and Italian counterparts to impose an arms embargo on Turkey.
He stressed that a suspension of the EU-Turkey customs union should be considered a message of disapproval of Turkey’s behavior. Shortly afterwards, government sources clarified that Athens was not asking for a suspension of the customs union per se at this point, but that Turkey’s violations of it are recorded, in order to make Ankara’s aggressive stance in the East Med clear to the EU.
This is also the intention of a barrage of letters sent by Athens to allies, partners and international organizations. The final step in this direction will be for Athens to seek recourse at the United Nations Security Council.
Meanwhile, based on the course followed by the Oruc Reis (its speed but also the area that has been reserved with a series of navigational advisories), the survey ship will be back within the area of 12 nautical miles from the Kastellorizo complex by late Wednesday afternoon.
The Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) is not ruling out the possibility of a repeat of the incident in summer when a Greek and Turkish frigate collided during the standoff between the two navies. As a result, instructions have been given for caution to avoid possible provocations.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a series of photos were leaked by GEETHA, showing Greek warships in the area, while in the more distant shots, a very dense formation of Turkish naval ships around the Oruc Reis is visible.
This dense formation indicates that, within the 12 nautical miles limit, the Oruc Reis would, at least Tuesday, not have been able to proceed with seismic surveys. The leak was also intended to show that Athens will not hesitate to defend its rights by military means if necessary.