The Turkish navy has said a research ship at the centre of an energy rights row with Greece will be sent back to disputed waters in the Mediterranean.
Tensions flared in August when the vessel was sent to survey an area claimed by Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. Turkey withdrew its ship, the Oruc Reis, in September ahead of diplomatic attempts to resolve the dispute. Now, Ankara has said that the ship will again spend 10 days conducting seismic research in the eastern Mediterranean. The vessel will also be accompanied by two other ships, Ataman and Cengiz Han.
Greece and Turkey are both Nato members, but have a history of border disputes and competing claims over maritime rights. This particular row was sparked when Turkey deployed the seismic research vessel and warships to the disputed waters on 10 August. The Oruc Reis, as well as two auxiliary vessels, were sent to search for potentially rich oil and gas deposits south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo. At the time, Greece’s foreign ministry said this was a “new serious escalation” which “exposed” Turkey’s “destabilising role”.
The row then saw Greece and Turkey stage rival air and navy drills in the waters between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete. Turkey eventually pulled the Oruc Reis back to shore last month, sparking hopes that the two nations could resolve the crisis. However, Turkish officials at the time insisted the ship was only undergoing planned maintenance and that it would be returning to sea. Earlier this month, the EU threatened to bring in sanctions on Turkey if it failed to do what the bloc said was illegal drilling and energy exploration activities in waters claimed by Cyprus and Greece. Turkey said the threat of sanctions was “unconstructive”.