Nicosia and Athens are seeking ways to further oppose Turkey’s moves in the eastern Mediterranean, after Ankara signaled it was ready for dialogue but at the same time sent a seismic research vessel in Cypriot waters.
According to local media, Turkish seismic research vessel Barbaros was sailing off the coast of Cyprus Thursday early morning after Ankara issued a navigational telex reserving areas off the eastern coast of Cyprus.
The move came just days after Ankara called off another maritime research mission west of Cyprus. Earlier this week, the Republic of Cyprus and the Hellenic Republic warned that plans by Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis, to conduct activities in areas claimed by Greece and Cyprus, were unlawful.
Barbaros entered an area that Turkey had previously reserved with a NAVTEX, with the Cyprus News Agency reporting that the ship arrived within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the early hours of Thursday morning.
According to CNA, the area in the Turkish NAVTEX is located southeast of Cape Greco and includes parts of blocks 2, 3 and 13 of Cyprus’ EEZ.
A counter-NAVTEX had been issued by Nicosia, warning mariners in the area that the 'Turkish NAVTEX is illegal and violates the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus
A counter-NAVTEX had also been issued by Nicosia, warning mariners in the area that the “Turkish NAVTEX is illegal and violates the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus.”
Cypriot government deputy spokesperson Panayiotis Sentonas described Ankara’s latest action as another example of Turkish behaviour in the region.
“Turkey once again with its actions is making a tense climate even more tense in the region, and it is violating once again the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus,” Sentonas said.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias spoke with his Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Christodoulides, with the two men agreeing on a common response towards Turkish moves.
Dendias, who said earlier this week that Athens was open to dialogue with Turkey, said Greece rejected a call by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “talk without preconditions” on a host of issues in the eastern Mediterranean.
“There is only one dispute with Turkey, the continental shelf and overlying maritime zones,” the Greek minister said, clarifying that Athens was in favour of dialogue but discussion could not be about everything.
According to Kathimerini Greece, Dendias also spoke hours after Barbaros was spotted off Cape Greco, saying Athens and Ankara “are in a phase of discussions and contacts, but no formal dialogue has started as yet.”
Dendias went on to describe Turkish actions as a “blatant violation” and said that he reassured Christodoulides that Athens would support the Republic of Cyprus “at any level it wishes.”
Earlier this week, during similar tensions in disputed waters between Greece and Turkey, and partly Cyprus, Athens placed the Hellenic Navy on high alert, saying it would do “whatever necessary” to protect its sovereign rights.
Ankara described the response as “excessive” while both countries seemed open to dialogue but unwilling to agree to each other’s terms.
On Wednesday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said any move in the Eastern Mediterranean that involves Cyprus but does not include Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots “will be futile.”
"Cyprus, Cypriots are our brothers, we are ready to do whatever it takes to protect the rights and interests of our Cypriot brothers there," Akar said.