Turkey, drilling ship in the Mediterranean

Turkey denies suspension of its activities in the Mediterranean

Turkish government says that the Oruç Reis ship has returned to port for maintenance, and insists on dialogue with Greece without conditions.

Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, categorically denied this Monday the information published in various media that claimed that Ankara had suspended its exploration operations in Eastern Mediterranean and returned the ship Oruç Reis, after both the Greek Prime Minister and the Turkish opposition referred to this supposed new movement.

The main opposition party in Turkey (CHP) had denounced as a “concession” from the Turkish government and an abandon of the country’s legitimate rights in the region the return of the Oruç Reis to the port of Antalya; for his part, on Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis referred to the return of the ship as “a positive first step”, assuring that he was willing to dialogue with Turkish President Erdoğan if the tension between the two countries is reduced.

However, on Monday the Turkish foreign minister pointed out that the Oruç Reis had only returned to Antalya for refuel and for maintenance works, and that return did not represent any concession from Turkey regarding its policy of continuing to develop its exploratory activities in the Mediterranean, Çavuşoğlu added, reiterating Ankara’s willingness for an unconditional dialogue with Athens.

“The two neighboring countries can meet directly. The statements made by the Greek prime minister are positive and moderate. But if he continues to insist on preconditions to sit at the table with us, we will put our conditions (too),” Çavuşoğlu told a private television network.

Greece must give up its claim on Turkey’s continental shelf

According to the Turkish Foreign Minister, the tension between the two nations will not end unless Athens renounces its plans to extend its exploitation rights over 40,000 square kilometres on the continental shelf located off the coast of Turkey, based on the possession of an island – Kastellorizo- which has only 12 km2 and is 600 km from Greece, but only 2.4 from the Turkish coast.

“Greece can perceive it as a step back because of our determination… It suffers from the insecurities of being a small country,” said the Turkish Minister of Energy, Fatih Dönmez, insisting that after going through some maintenance works “the vessel (Oruç Reis) will continue with its seismic exploration activities” in search of gas in the region.

In addition to denying that Turkey has suspended its activities in the Mediterranean, both ministers reported that two other exploration vessels – the Barbaros Hayreddin and the Yavuz, currently in waters east and southwest of Cyprus, respectively – will also continue their work in the area. Regarding possible EU sanctions against Turkey as requested by Greece, the Turkish government does not rule them out but does not believe that they will occur for now.