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Iran Press TV

Greece denounces as 'direct threat to regional peace' Turkey's decision to send back survey ship to disputed waters

Iran Press TV

Monday, 12 October 2020 2:48 PM

Greece has condemned Turkey's decision to send its research ship to the Eastern Mediterranean on a seismic survey mission, vowing to press the European Union to impose sanctions on Ankara over the move.

In a statement on Monday, Greece's Foreign Ministry denounced Turkey's decision as a "direct threat to regional peace and security," adding that sending back the ship to disputed territory showed that Ankara is "unreliable" and "does not sincerely desire dialogue."

It further noted that Turkey was "the foremost factor of instability" in the region, urging Ankara to "to recall its decision" which it described as a "major escalation."

The remarks came after Turkey's navy announced late Sunday that Oruc Reis, the very research ship that has been at the heart of a dispute with neighboring Greece over oil and gas drilling rights in the region, will continue its work in an area. including the south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, for ten days.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also reacted to Turkey's decision, saying his country will bring the issue to the October 15-16 EU summit.

Ankara: Athens has no right to oppose seismic work near our coast

Meanwhile, Turkey said later on Monday that the neighboring Greece has no right to oppose seismic exploration work 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from its mainland in the Eastern Mediterranean and on its continental shelf.

In a statement, Turkey's Foreign Ministry said the activity range of its Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel lies 15 kilometers from Turkey and 425 kilometers from Greece, which is "fully within Turkish continental shelf."

"It is unacceptable for there to be opposition against our country, which has the longest coastline to the Eastern Mediterranean, operating 15 kilometers from its mainland," Turkey said, adding that Greece's criticism was "baseless accusations with no standing in international law."

Turkey and Greece, both of them NATO members, have been at loggerheads over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

In August, Turkey dispatched Oruc Reis and warships escorting it to survey an area between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

That led to an escalation of tensions, with the two NATO allies launching air and naval drills of their own in the waters.

Turkey ended the mission of those vessels and ordered them back to shore for maintenance work in mid-September. Ankara said the move was also meant to give diplomacy a chance.

The move came ahead of a European Union summit, reviving hopes that the move would serve as a prelude to the launch of negotiations with Athens.

But no rapprochement was effected when Brussels, which has taken the side of Greece in the territorial row, threatened Ankara with sanctions in case of further "illegal" drilling and energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed dismay at "unconstructive" threats, saying that the bloc "had succumbed to pressure and blackmail from Greek Cypriots and Greece despite Turkey's good faith."

Ankara's latest decision to redeploy the ship to the contested region comes even as Turkish and Greek foreign ministers agreed in a meeting last week to resolve the dispute through negotiations.

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