The Turkish Government Gazette has presented a map of the 24 Eastern Aegean seabed areas which Turkey has demarcated for oil and gas drilling in the most recent blatant challenge to Greek sovereignty.
The new map completely disregards the continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of several Greek islands, including Crete, Kasos, Karpathos and Rhodes. Furthermore, the map includes parts of the nation of Cyprus’ EEZ.
In addition, the Greek island of Kastelorizo, which is inside the demarcation area, does not appear on the map — as if it does not even exist. This most recent action has generated a serious diplomatic dustup between Greece and Turkey.
Ankara claims that the exploration will take place within the maritime borders as delineated in the Turkey-Libya Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed in November of 2019. The deal between Ankara and the Libyan Presidential Council (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj, clearly violates the sovereign waters of Greece.
Greece, Cyprus and Egypt denounced the agreement immediately, and the EU followed soon after, flatly calling it “illegal.”
The demarcation of oil and gas research plots extends from southeast of Crete to the Gulf of Fethiye, located on the coast of Asia Minor, north of Rhodes. The western boundary line reaches up to six miles from the Greek islands in the direction from Rhodes to Crete and follows the exact delineation of the Turkish-Libyan memorandum.
Hami Aksoy, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara, said on Tuesday that “Turkey will be resolutely continuing to exercise its sovereign rights over the area that we repeatedly announced.”
Greece reacts to Ankara’s announcements
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in a statement on Monday that the Turkish request to carry out “petroleum explorations in the region of the Greek continental shelf is part of a series of actions by the neighboring country which is gradually trying to usurp the sovereign rights of Greece.”
In a further diplomatic move, Dendias summoned Turkish Ambassador Burak Ozugergin to the Greek Foreign Ministry on Monday evening.
Turkish diplomatic sources stated that Ozugergin had responded, saying that, among other things, Turkey’s position on the Middle East issue was known, adding that it was not too late for talks between the two neighbors.
US State Department advises Turkey to stop provocations
The United States has duly criticized Turkey’s unilateral acts in the region. US State Department Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources Francis Fannon said on Tuesday that the US has “been very consistent in calling to stop all provocative actions that could undermine investment confidence in the East Mediterranean region and affect political stability.”
The American official spoke at a virtual roundtable discussion titled “East Med and the Trilateral Partnership (Greece, Cyprus, Israel) and its Role in Regional Energy Security and Economic Cooperation in the Age of Covid-19 and Beyond.”
Commenting further, the State Department official said that the US considers Turkey a valuable ally and wants Ankara to continue “looking westward.” However, he added, “Provocative actions and provocative statements undermine confidence and it doesn’t even advance their own agenda.”
The US had condemned the Ankara-Tripoli MoU soon after it was announced on the grounds that it violates the International Law of the Sea.