Turkey is once again sending research vessel Oruc Reis to explore for gas south of Greek island Kastellorizo, days after Ankara announced a new NAVTEX for its Barbaros ship in waters off Cyprus.
According to Turkish media, Oruc Reis has been tasked with carrying out seismic studies in the eastern Mediterranean together with two other vessels, the Ataman and Cengiz Han, through October 22.
Greek media said the Navtex called into question prospective exploratory talks at expert level between Greece and Turkey and came two days before the visit of German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to Ankara aimed at kick-starting these talks.
Ankara says Kastellorizo, just off Turkey's southern coast, does not have a continental shelf of its own, while Greece says Turkish claims breach maritime boundaries and violate international law
But Greek media also raised questions as to whether the move was aimed at actual research, while reporting that the vessel will pass very close to Greece's easternmost island complex of Kastellorizo, Ro, and Stroggili.
Athens claims that some areas in Oruc Reis’ path are inside the Greek continental shelf, accusing Ankara of raising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
But Ankara disputes that Kastellorizo, just off Turkey's southern coast, has a continental shelf of its own, while Greece says Turkish moves and claims breach maritime boundaries and constitute a violation of international law.
Turkey’s latest move in waters in the eastern Mediterranean came just days after a new NAVTEX was issued for Turkish seismic vessel Barbaros, which has been moving in and out of waters claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as Exclusive Economic Zone.
According to the latest NAVTEX, Barbaros will conduct hydrocarbon exploration activities between through November 9 off the Cyprus coast, accompanied by ships Tanux 1 and Apollo Moon.
An ongoing attempt to seek a diplomatic way forward between Greece and Turkey has been ongoing at the European level as well as NATO, but observers say the effort remains fragile.