On July 28th, Turkey paused its drilling for oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean “for a while” while waiting for talks with Greece.
This was announced by Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin.
In an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk, Kalin said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his aides to “be constructive and put this on hold for some time”.
Turkish vessel “Oruc Reis” planned to search for hydrocarbons “180 kilometres from the island of Meis (Kastellorizo in Greek)”, Kalin told the private broadcaster.
“Despite this our president said while the negotiations are continuing, let’s be constructive and hold (energy search) for a while,” he said.
This is a turn-around from a previous announcement by the Turkish government, which would see a research vessel and two support vessels carry out operations through August 2nd in the area that Ankara claims is on its continental shelf.
In response, Greece’s navy said it had deployed ships in the Aegean in “heightened readiness.”
Turkey has accused Greece of trying to exclude it from the benefits of oil and gas finds in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, arguing that sea boundaries for commercial exploitation should be divided between the Greek and Turkish mainlands and not include the Greek islands on an equal basis.
Athens counters that Turkey’s position is a violation of international law.
“Everyone should continue working on their own continental shelves and conduct joint work in contested areas,” Kalin said.
He also said that bilateral issues with Greece should be solved through dialogue, and not by threatening Turkey’s bid to join the EU.
On July 27th, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that Turkey was withdrawing navy vessels from the area, adding that Athens remained ready to enter negotiations with Turkey “within the framework of international law and good neighbourly relations”.
In what appears as a rare sign of common sense, Ibrahim Kalin said Greece was an “important neighbor” to Turkey and added:
“We are ready to discuss (all disputes) with Greece without any conditions.”
The US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt repeated urges from other EU states for Turkey to halt its operations in the Eastern Mediterranean:
“I want to echo the clear message from Washington and elsewhere in Europe, urging Turkish authorities to halt operations that raise tensions in the region, such as plans to survey for natural resources in areas where Greece and Cyprus assert jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean,” he said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Trump administration supported Greece, Cyprus and the EU’s interpretations of economic zones and that Turkey is violating them.
Still, Turkey maintains that its operations aren’t encroaching on Greek or Cypriot sovereignty.
“We want all natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean to be shared fairly,” said Turkish presidency spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. “We will never accept threats or sanctions. We do not accept Greece’s maximalist position.”
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Alignment Of Forces In Greece-Turkey Maritime Dispute Clarifies: Turkey Is Definitely Alone
- Egypt and France Carry Out Naval Drill As Show Of Force To Turkey
- Ripple Effects: Greece And Turkey Open New Northern Front On Libyan Conflict