Ankara fired back at US and EU criticism over actions of its decision to send Oruc Reis survey vessel near the Greek island of Kastellorizo, while also accusing Athens of escalating tensions and refusing honest dialogue over maritime disputes.
Following damning statements from American and European officials, calling on Ankara to deescalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, Ankara responded by issuing a number of statements and circulating a non-paper called “Escalatory Steps of Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Sea since 12 September 2020.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who traveled to Athens and Nicosia earlier this week but left Ankara out of his itinerary, criticized Turkey for sending a survey vessel back into disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean, calling the unilateral move a blow to efforts to start negotiations in the conflict.
"Turkey's back and forth between escalation and a policy of detente has to stop," Maas stated after meeting his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia on Tuesday, saying it was “up to Turkey” to create the conditions for talks.
'Objection is based on the maximalist maritime jurisdiction claims of Greece, embodied in the Seville Map, yet both the EU and the US have publicly denounced its legal significance'
US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus also echoed a similar message, urging Turkey to cease survey activities.
"Coercion, threats, intimidation, and military activity will not resolve tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece," Ortagus said.
But Ankara fired back at both EU and US criticism, with Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy saying “it was Greece, not Turkey, that was escalating tensions.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who welcomed Maas to Athens on Tuesday, clarified that Athens would not be conducting any dialogue with Ankara with the Oruc Reis in the Greek continental shelf.
Turkey insists that Greece is preventing exploratory talks based on a fair dialogue, repeating its claim that Athens’ “objection is based on the maximalist maritime jurisdiction claims of Greece, embodied in the Seville Map. Yet, both the EU and the US have publicly denounced the legal significance of the Seville Map,” Ankara said.
In a Turkish ministry press release, Ankara argued seismic survey activities were being carried within the Turkish continental shelf, an area which Greece also claims as its own continental shelf and part of its Exclusive Economic Zone.
"Oruc Reis vessel, after a month-long maintenance and repair operations, has today resumed its seismic survey activity from where it left off. The activity, which will last until October 22, 2020 is entirely within the Turkish continental shelf," Ankara said.
Ankara also circulated a non-paper, listing a dozen incidents over the last 30 days that it says Greece had escalated tensions, including exercises in demilitarized areas or very close to the Turkish coast.
“Recently, Greece has issued navigational warnings for two separate exercises which are planned to take place on 29 October 2020, which is the Republic Day of Turkey. In response, Turkey announced military exercises to be conducted on 28 October 2020, the National Day of Greece,” it was said in the non-paper.
Last week, Greece said it welcomed moves by Turkey to de-escalate recent tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, but made it clear it was calling on Ankara to show a firmer commitment to improving relations.
Ankara says Greek objections are based on “groundless allegations that are incompatible with international law,” accusing both US and EU of supporting an inconsistent position on maritime delimitation of boundaries.
“The Greek side is also well aware that these are maximalist demands,” Ankara said in a press release, with reports saying Turkey is also accusing Greece of avoiding dialogue by putting preconditions on exploratory talks while rejecting those from the other side.