Turkey to resume drilling in eastern Mediterranean

Turkey to resume drilling in eastern Mediterranean
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Turkish President Erdogan has announced that a drilling ship will start operations 55 km off Turkey's southern coast, outside waters also claimed by the Republic of Cyprus.

Turkey is preparing to resume its hydrocarbon drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean two years after it withdrew a drill ship from contested waters.

Turkey's Yavuz drill ship had ceased its activities in September 2020 after an exchange of international maritime alerts, or Navtex messages, issued by Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus, the former announcing the areas of operation, and the latter declaring that the Turkish Navtex is "unauthorized" and "invalid", and that the drilling operations by Turkey in the indicated areas is "illegal".

Speaking at a ceremony on Tuesday to launch Turkey's fourth drill ship Abdulhamid Han, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the new drill ship would operate 55 km off the Gazipasa region in the southern coastal province of Antalya, outside waters also claimed by the Republic of Cyprus.

"The survey and drilling work we are conducting in the Mediterranean are within our sovereign territory. We do not need to receive permission or consent from anyone for this," Erdogan said.

The launch comes at a time when tensions between Turkey and Greece have risen again, with the Turkish administration claiming that Athens is illegally arming islands in the Aegean Sea that have a demilitarized status. 

Turkish Defense Minister recently accused Greece of "expansionism", and even disputed the legitimacy of its sovereignty over Greek islands close to Turkish coasts.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Greek government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said:

"We need to be vigilant (...) We’ve always been doing what we have to do to have stability in our region and to fully defend international law and our own sovereign rights.”

Turkey's new drill ship Abdulhamid Han, named after the Ottoman Sultan who agreed to have Cyprus ceded to Britain in 1878 in return for curbing gains acquired by Russia through a treaty following the Ottoman-Russian war, is the largest and the most technologically advanced drilling ship in Turkey's survey and exploration fleet.