While over a week ago it was looking as if Turkey might back down on its ambitious oil and gas exploration aims in the eastern Mediterranean amidst global pressure, especially coming from the EU and US, President Erdogan is defiant once again, announcing Friday the resumption of energy exploration work that Greece and Cyprus says violates their territorial waters.
Emerging from Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia – which Turkey recently declared a mosque (in another shot aimed at Greece) – Erdogan said: “We have started drilling work again,” and added, “I don’t think we are obligated to talk to those who do not have rights in the areas of maritime powers.”
Erdogan said a seismic survey ship is currently en route to the disputed region to continue its energy exploration.
The Turkish president’s comments were also seen as a firm rejected of a recent Greece and Egyptian deal defining their exclusive economic zones in contradiction to Ankara’s interpretation.
Turkey denied the agreement as “null and void” — which means Turkey’s expansionist claims are being contested by pretty much every Mediterranean country, also including Israel. The exception of course, is the Tripoli-based Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), which lately inked its own agreement with Turkey defining broad swathes of the Mediterranean as within Turkey’s rights.
Turkey has sought to argue that the so-called Turkish Republic of Cyprus, which remains unrecognized internationally, gives it expansive rights encompassing the whole of Cyprus.
Meanwhile Greece has complained of weekly illegal Turkish military incursions of its airspace, in a situation that is becoming militarized by the week.
Lately Greek forces have been on ‘high alert’ after Athens promised it would never let Turkish ships encroach of Greek maritime territory. The EU has also threatened sanctions over the past month as the crisis has grown.
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