Turkish research ship in port after Mediterranean survey

Turkish research ship in port after Mediterranean survey

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FILE – In this Sept. 27, 2020 file photo, Turkey’s research vessel Oruc Reis is anchored off the coast of Antalya on the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey. In a tweet Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, Turkey’s energy ministry said the Oruc … more >

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By ZEYNEP BILGINSOY

Associated Press

Monday, November 30, 2020

ISTANBUL (AP) – The Turkish research vessel at the heart of a Mediterranean Sea energy dispute between Turkey and Greece is back in port in an apparent bid to ease tensions ahead of a European Union summit where potential sanctions against Ankara will be discussed.

In a tweet Monday, Turkey’s energy ministry said the Oruc Reis had returned to port in Antalya after completing seismic research in the Demre field. Ship tracker MarineTraffic showed the survey ship had docked.

Tensions between the two neighbors and nominal NATO allies escalated over the summer with a military build-up after Turkey sent the survey ship, escorted by navy frigates, into disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

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The move prompted Greece to also send its warships, and both countries conducted military exercises to assert their claims. NATO intervened, organizing technical talks between the two countries’ militaries to prevent a potential armed conflict. NATO foreign ministers are scheduled to meet Dec 1-2.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was still concerned with the situation and was working to reduce tensions by keeping lines of communication open, cancelling military drills and other measures.

“When the ship Oruc Reis is in port, as it is from today as far as I have been informed, that helps to reduce tensions and makes it easier to make progress also on deconfliction,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.

Ankara says Greece and the Greek Cypriot-led government on war-divided Cyprus are impinging on the energy rights of Turkey and breakaway Turkish Cypriots by setting maritime boundaries according to their own interests and attempting to exclude Turkey from potential oil and gas reserves.

Turkey says maritime boundaries for hydrocarbon resources should be calculated from the mainland. Greece invokes international law to say the continental shelves of its islands dotting the Mediterranean should be included within its energy zone.

The Cypriot government also accuses Turkey of unlawfully carrying out drilling and exploratory work in waters where it claims exclusive economic rights.

The competing claims have led to a diplomatic crisis and aggressive rhetoric. EU-members Greece and Cyprus, along with France, have called for sanctions on Turkey.

The Oruc Reis was pulled back to port in September for maintenance and resupply. Turkish officials said it was withdrawn from Greek-claimed waters to give diplomacy a chance. It was redeployed in October after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Athens of failing to fulfill promises.

Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar on Monday again accused Greece of “stubbornly avoiding dialogue and looking for solutions elsewhere.”

EU leaders are meeting for a summit on Dec. 10-11 and are expected to discuss the dispute and possible sanctions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the return of the Oruc Reis to port as a “good sign,” but noted that Turkey was still carrying out drilling activities off Cyprus.

She said Turkey has engaged in activities of “a very aggressive character, or I would say provocative character” in the Mediterranean Sea. But she also said Turkey deserves “great respect” and support for hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees.

Separately, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus are conducting sea and air military drills in waters off Alexandria, Egypt, through Sunday. The Medusa exercise has been a component of the three countries’ cooperation pact since 2017, and is joined this year by France and the United Arab Emirates.

Greece and Cyprus have signed separate maritime border agreements with Egypt and all three countries have condemned Turkey’s actions in the Mediterranean. They dismiss a similar deal that Ankara signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government as “legally invalid.”

___

Menelaos Hadjicostis contributed from Nicosia, Cyprus and Geir Moulson from Berlin.

Turkey says Greece failed to fulfill promises, vows response

Turkey says Greece failed to fulfill promises, vows response

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FILE – In this Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 file photo, Turkey’s research vessel, Oruc Reis anchored off the coast of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey. Greece accused neighbor Turkey of undermining efforts to ease a crisis over drilling rights in … more >

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By SUZAN FRASER

Associated Press

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

ANKAR, Turkey (AP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday accused Greece and Cyprus of failing to fulfill “promises” made during negotiations within the European Union and NATO and said his country would continue to give them “the response they deserve.”

Erdogan’s comments came days after Ankara redeployed its search vessel, Oruc Reis, for a new energy exploration mission in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean, reigniting tensions with Greece and Cyprus over sea boundaries and exploration rights. Turkish media reports said two navy frigates are shadowing the search vessel.

Those tensions had flared up over the summer, prompting a military buildup, bellicose rhetoric and fears of a confrontation between the two NATO members and historic regional rivals.

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“Our Oruc Reis has returned to its duty in the Mediterranean,” Erdogan told legislators of his ruling party in a speech in parliament. “We will continue to give the response they deserve on the field, to Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration who have not kept their promises during talks within the EU and NATO platforms.”

He didn’t spell out what the promises were but Turkish officials have been accusing Greek officials of engaging in a series of “provocations” despite efforts to revive the so-called exploratory talks between the neighbors that were aimed at resolving disputes and were last held in 2016.

Greece’s government said, meanwhile, that it wouldn’t take part in planned exploratory talks with Turkey as long as the survey mission was in progress.

“It is impossible to hold talks about a (maritime region) when a survey in that region is underway,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told private Skai television.

Heiko Maas, the foreign minister of Germany, which has been mediating between Athens and Ankara in a bid to east the tensions, criticized Turkey on Tuesday for taking “unilateral steps” in the eastern Mediterranean which he said were undercutting efforts to deescalate tensions. The U.S. State Department issued a statement deploring Turkey’s move.

Ankara says the Oruc Reis was redeployed following provocative acts by Athens, including a decision to hold military drills in the Aegean Sea on Turkey’s main national holiday.

During his speech, Erdogan also rebuffed international criticism over Turkey’s move to open the beachfront of Cyprus’ fenced-off suburb of Varosha in divided Cyprus’ breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

“The fenced-off Varosha region belongs to the Turks of northern Cyprus. This should be known as such,” he said.

Varosha remained off-limits and in Turkish military control after its Greek Cypriot residents fled before advancing troops in 1974 when Turkey invaded and sliced the island along ethnic lines after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Separately, Erdogan declared that he would on Saturday announce details of the discovery a new natural gas reserve off the Black Sea coast. In August, Turkey announced the discovery of 320 billion cubic meters of gas, which the country said would help ease the country’s dependence on imports.

___

Associated Press writer Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.

Turkey rejects Greece accusation of Mediterranean violation

Turkey rejects Greece accusation of Mediterranean violation

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during an event in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool) more >

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Associated Press

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey on Wednesday rejected claims by Greece that its oil-and-gas research vessels were encroaching on Greek waters in the eastern Mediterranean and said it would continue to defend its legitimate rights and interests in the region.

A Foreign Ministry statement, however, also renewed a call by Ankara for dialogue to resolve the dispute between the two NATO allies.

Turkey announced plans Tuesday to dispatch search vessels into disputed waters in the Mediterranean, raising tensions between the neighbors and ignoring calls from European nations to avoid the action. Turkish authorities said the research vessel Oruc Reis and two support vessels would carry out operations through Aug. 2 in waters south of the Greek islands of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kastelorizo.

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State-run television in Greece said the country’s armed forces had been placed on a state of readiness.

An overnight statement by the Greek foreign ministry called the Turkish notification “illegal,” while authorities there issued a counter-notification declaring the Turkish navy’s notice for seismic survey in the area as “invalid.”

NATO allies Greece and Turkey are at odds over drilling rights in the region, with the European Union and the United States increasingly critical of Ankara’s plans to expand exploration and drilling operations in the coming weeks into areas Athens claims as its own.

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 mainland and not include the Greek islands on an equal basis.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced what it called a “maximalist continental shelf claim,” insisting that they were “against international law, legal precedent and court decisions.”

The ministry statement added that the maritime area where Oruc Reis would conduct research was “within the limits of the continental shelf that our country has notified to the United Nations.” It said an exploration license was given to the Turkish state-run oil company, TPAO, in 2012.

Greece is pressing other EU member states to prepare “crippling sanctions″ against Turkey if it proceeds with the oil-and-gas exploration plans.