Duvar English – Reuters

Turkey wants to resolve its dispute with Greece over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean through dialogue, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Aug. 12, while vowing to defend Turkey’s coastal interests.

Turkey and Greece, NATO allies, vehemently disagree over overlapping claims to hydrocarbon resources in the region based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands.

Tensions rose when Ankara sent an exploration vessel on Aug. 10 to a disputed area of the Mediterranean, accompanied by warships. Greece says the Oruç Reis is operating illegally in its continental shelf, accusations which Ankara has dismissed.

“Despite all this, we want to believe that common sense will prevail. Both on the field and at the table, we side with international law, good neighbourliness and dialogue,” Akar told Reuters.

“We want to reach political solutions through peaceful means in line with international laws,” he added.

However, he noted that Turkey would continue to defend its “rights, ties and interests” in coastal waters. “It should be known that our seas are our blue homeland. Every drop is valuable,” he said.

‘Greece’s demand can’t be reconciled with any logic’

Turkey says it has the longest coastline in the eastern Mediterranean but that it is penned in to a narrow strip of waters due to the extension of Greece’s continental shelf, based on the presence of many Greek islands near its shore.

Akar singled out the Greek island of Kastellorizo, some 2 km off Turkey’s southern coast and 570 km from the Greek mainland, as a particular source of Turkish frustration.

“Greece’s demand for a 40,000 square kilometre maritime jurisdiction zone because of the 10 km square Meis island [Kastellorizo]…cannot be reconciled with any logic,” he said.

Greece’s claim to the waters around Kastellorizo is based on a U.N. maritime convention endorsed by many countries, but not Turkey.

Ankara said on Aug. 11 it would issue new exploration and drilling licences in the eastern Mediterranean, while Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias urged Turkey to “immediately leave the Greek continental shelf,” saying Athens was determined to defend its rights.

European Union foreign ministers will discuss the issue in an emergency teleconference on Aug. 14 at the request of the Greek government. Dendias will also meet his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo in Vienna on Aug. 14 to discuss the dispute.

The United States has appealed for a resumption of direct talks between Turkey and Greece, which Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said had been under way for two months until they were broken off last week.

Israel expresses solidarity with Greece

Separately, Israel has expressed its solidarity with Greece.

“Israel is cautiously monitoring the increase in tension in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the country’s embassy in Athens said in a statement posted on Twitter early on Aug. 12.

“Israel expresses its full support and solidarity with Greece over its maritime zones and the right to determine its exclusive economic zone [EEZ],” it said.