Greece accused neighbour Turkey of undermining efforts to ease a crisis over eastern Mediterranean drilling rights on Monday, after Ankara redeployed a survey vessel for new energy exploration near the island of Kastellorizo.
The Turkish search vessel, Oruc Reis, left the port of Antalya on Monday for a mission ending October 22.
Turkish Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, said the vessel was continuing with its “planned and scheduled activities,” adding that the Turkish navy would provide “support and protection” if necessary.
Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, discussed the development on the phone with European Council President, Charles Michel, saying he would bring it up at the next council meeting on October 15-16.
“This new unilateral act is a severe escalation on Turkey’s part,” a government statement quoted Mitsotakis as saying.
Turkey said Greek objections were “unacceptable,” insisting that the research vessel was operating within Turkey’s continental shelf — an area just 15 kilometers (nearly 10 miles) from the Turkish coast and 425 kilometers (about 265 miles) from mainland Greece.
“It is unacceptable for there to be opposition against our country, which has the longest coastline to the Eastern Mediterranean, operating 15 kilometers from its mainland,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding Greece’s criticisms were “baseless accusations with no standing in international law.”
In response, Greece’s Iraklio Navtex station on the island of Crete, issued a counter-Navtex on Monday.
According to the Greek notice, an unauthorised station has broadcast a Navtex inside a Greek Navtex service area for “unauthorised and illegal activity in an area that overlaps the Greek continental shelf.”
It added that the Iraklio Navtex station has the authority to broadcast Navtex messages in the area.
Turkey also faces the threat of sanctions from the European Union, to which both Greece and Cyprus — an island republic off which Turkey has sent drilling ships — belong.