Suspense in Nicosia and Athens were unceremoniously put on hold on Tuesday when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the launch of the country’s Abdulhamid Han drill ship in contested waters off Cyprus but was in no hurry to share coordinates.
Erdogan was to preside over an inaugural ceremony for Abdulhamid Han, Turkey's largest drilling ship, which was on its way to sail for offshore exploration in search of oil and natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean.
But the ship has been controversial ever since preparations and see trials started taking place due to contested maritime claims in the region.
The first drilling point announced for Abdulhamid Han was said to be scheduled in non-disputed waters
Greece and the Greek Cypriots in the Republic of Cyprus have accused Turkey of violating the two countries’ rights within the their respective Excusive Economic Zones, while Ankara has disputed some of the claims arguing they were encroaching on Turkish and Turkish Cypriot rights.
Recently Abdulhamid Han has been receiving wide coverage in Greek and Greek Cypriot media, with speculation about a final drilling destination being intensified by the fact that Ankara would not post details ahead of time.
Erdogan, who took a helicopter ride to the ship’s helipad, did not appear to be in a hurry to announce the final destination, seen by Greek political pundits as a political calculation.
The Turkish Petroleum Company, which operates the state-of-the-art vessel, also did not disclose any coordinates ahead of time as they did not file a NAVTEX in advance.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Monday that his country was defending sovereign rights in the eastern Mediterranean, pointing to past actions by Ankara when “the Greek and Greek-Cypriot duo attempted to send nine ships to our continental shelf.”
“We prevented these with the measures we took both on ground and at the table. And tomorrow the ship Abdulhamid Han will sail for its first operations in the Mediterranean.”
Greeks and Turks have been arguing over maritime boundaries, while Nicosia has often accused Ankara of trying to destabilize the region and raise tensions between partners in the area. The first drilling point for Abdulhamid Han, according an announcement by Erdogan later on Tuesday, was said to be scheduled in non-disputed waters.
The Abdulhamid Han is a nine-storey drill ship with crew capacity of 200. The vessel has the ability to drill at 40,000 feet and the eastern Mediterranean is its first mission.