Duvar English – Reuters
The European Union has said that it’s “extremely worried” about the escalating tensions between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.
The bloc, which has imposed an entry ban and asset freeze on two Turkish energy executives, also called for dialogue.
“The latest developments are extremely worrying,” European Commission foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said.
On Aug. 11, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey will issue gas exploration and drilling licences in the eastern Mediterranean, further raising tensions with Greece which said it would seek an emergency EU meeting to address the issue.
The two NATO allies vehemently disagree about their overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, based on conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend in waters dotted with islands.
On Aug. 10, Turkey sent an exploration vessel into a disputed area, ending a brief period of calm brokered by Germany. Ankara said a maritime deal Greece signed with Egypt last week showed it could not trust Athens, and vowed to continue surveying waters that are also claimed by Greece and Cyprus.
Çavuşoğlu said Turkey’s Oruç Reis exploration vessel would continue its work, which Greece has decried as illegal, and Ankara would issue new seismic exploration and drilling licenses by the end of August.
“Our determination is unfaltering here,” he told reporters in Ankara. “We will not compromise in any way from this.”
Backing up Çavuşoğlu’s unyielding tone, Turkey’s Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun tweeted on Aug. 11 video footage of Turkish fighter jets, warships and exploration vessels deployed at sea.
“Every drop of our blue homeland is sacred,” Altun tweeted, referring to a doctrine championed by recent Turkish naval commanders calling for Ankara to adopt a more muscular approach in its coastal waters.
Turkey says it has the longest coastline in the eastern Mediterranean but is penned in to a narrow strip of coastal water by the presence of numerous small Greek islands close to its shore. Greece and other regional states cite a United Nations accord to support their maritime demarcations.
Greece urges Turkey to withdraw vessel from continental shelf
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias urged Turkey on Aug. 11 to withdraw its vessel from the Greek continental shelf.
“Greece will defend its sovereignty and its rights. We are calling on Turkey to immediately leave the Greek continental shelf,” Dendias said in statements aired on state ERT TV.
Earlier, Athens said it would request an emergency meeting of the European Union foreign affairs council, the prime minister’s office said.
Turkey’s presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said that two months of talks between Greece and Turkey had led to “an understanding” between them which was then scuppered by the announcement of the Greek-Egyptian deal on Aug. 6.
“The moment the accord with Egypt was announced, we received very clear orders from our president. ‘Stop the talks,'” Kalın told broadcaster CNN Turk at the weekend.
The United States, saying it took no position on maritime boundary issues of other states, expressed deep concern at Turkey’s exploration work and called for a return to talks.
“We strongly support dialogue between Greece and Turkey and encourage the parties to resume discussing these issues,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.
Turkey: Three taken to hospital after Greek navy opens fire on private boat
Also on Aug. 11, Turkish Coast Guard Command announced that three people were injured when Greek navy opened fire on a private boat off the coast of Muğla.
According to its statement, two Turkish and one Syrian nationals were taken to Marmaris State Hospital following the incident.
The boat sank after being opened fire on and an investigation was launched into the incident, it said.