Turkey has been sailing its Oruc Reis seismic research vessel and escorting naval ships in waters disputed with Greece in the Mediterranean Sea since early August, heightening tensions with Athens over the limits of their continental shelves.
The Turkish navy issued a new advisory for Oruc Reis on Monday, saying the ship would be working until September 12 instead of September 1.
The Greek Foreign Ministry reacted by saying that the new advisory was “illegal.”
“Turkey continues to ignore calls for dialog and to escalate its provocations. Greece won’t be blackmailed,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Turkish advisory came just after the European Union (EU) called for dialog between Ankara and Athens earlier on Monday. Greece, which has dispatched its own naval ships to shadow the Turkish vessels, had also on Wednesday said it was conditionally ready to de-escalate.
Erdogan strikes defiant note
Also on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Greece’s reported deployment of troops to a tiny Island just off Turkish shorelines, saying Ankara would not tolerate such attempts at “piracy” in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions.
“No one can confine Turkey, which has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, to the shores of Antalya. We are determined to defend the maritime rights of our citizens and the people of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC),” Erdogan said following a tour of the Black Sea province of Giresun, according to Turkish Daily Sabah.
The Turkish president said Ankara would not allow “piracy or banditry” in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.
Erdogan’s strong words came following reports about the deployment of Greek military personnel and supplies to the island of Kastellorizo, a legally demilitarized island that lies less than three miles off Turkey’s coastline in the eastern Mediterranean.
Erdogan’s remarks also came a day after he lashed out at the leaders of France and Greece, describing them as “greedy and incompetent” for challenging Ankara’s energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
In his Monday remarks, Erdogan also warned Athens against relying on French support in the dispute, saying, “Those who get carried away with support from former colonial countries should study history again.”
The EU has taken sides with member state Greece, calling on Turkey to stop the seismic research activities in the Mediterranean.
France has been particularly assertive, building up military presence in the eastern Mediterranean and conducting joint drills with Greece.
Turkey has been holding its own military exercises in the area.
Greece and Turkey almost went to war in 1974 over Cyprus, which has since been divided, with the northern third run by a Turkish Cypriot administration recognized only by Turkey and the southern two-thirds governed by the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government.