Turkey plans to drill for oil near the Greek islands of Crete, Kasos, Karpathos and Rhodes based on a controversial maritime border agreement signed with the Libyan Government of National Accord in November of 2019.
According to the Turkish news website Ahval, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez announced that his drilling vessels of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) may begin exploring for oil in the eastern Mediterranean within three or four months.
“Within the framework of the agreement we reached with Libya we will be able to start our oil exploration operations there within three to four months,” Donmez said during a ceremony to mark the launch of Turkey’s oil-and-gas drilling ship, the “Fatih.”
Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and other countries oppose the agreement and have flatly termed it illegal. The arbitrary maritime border demarcation between Ankara and the Libyan Presidential Council (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj, violates Greece’s sovereign waters.
Turkey provides military support to the GNA in its continuing confrontation with the opposing faction called the Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Haftar, who is against the deal and challenges the authority of al-Sarraj.
It is clear that Ankara is using the dubious deal to challenge Greece’s sovereignty and it stands by its position that the Greek islands cannot claim control over the country’s continental shelf, just six nautical miles of territorial waters.
Turkey’s new move generates further tensions in the region, coming at odds with not only Greece, but the nations of Cyprus, Egypt and Israel as well over natural resource exploration rights.
The European Union also opposes the November 2019 maritime deal since Turkey provides military support to the GNA in the armed conflict with General Haftar.
There is grave concern in Athens over Ankara’s planned moves. The announcement that drilling will commence within Greece’s territorial waters is yet another provocation in a long line of inflammatory actions by Turkey challenging Greece’s sovereignty in the Aegean.
Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias reacted to the new Turkish provocative act with a post on Twitter: “The announcement in the Turkish Government Gazette of a series of applications for a TPAO research-exploitation license in areas within the Greek continental shelf is part of a series of actions by which Turkey is trying step by step to usurp Greek sovereign rights.”