Oruc Reis, the Turkish research vessel at the center of the country’s sea border dispute with Greece and Cyprus, was spotted just seven miles off the coast of the Greek island of Kastellorizo late on Thursday night.
After illegally encroaching on Greece’s waters, the massive research vessel, used to scan for energy reserves located beneath the seabed, sailed out of the waters atop Greece’s continental shelf on Thursday.
The Oruc Reis is expected to continue its search for oil and gas, skirting the borders of Greece’s continental shelf, until its NAVTEX order expires on Sunday.
Its proximity to the island of Kastellorizo is particularly alarming, considering repeated statements by Turkish officials claiming that many Greek islands are rightfully Turkish, including Kastellorizo.
The Turkish state sent the Oruc Reis back to its home berth in Turkey in September in order to pursue diplomatic talks with Greece — but quickly sent it right back out to conduct new energy seeking research in Greek and Cypriot waters.
On Thursday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias called for the European Union to impose sanctions on Turkey for its repeated acts of aggression in the region, particularly involving sea borders in the eastern Mediterranean.
In an interview with Bloomberg News on Wednesday, Dendias expressed concern that Turkish President Erdogan would be emboldened to continue his illegal provocations in the region if sanctions are not imposed, saying “Europe cannot pretend that Turkey is acting as an acceptable player in the region.”
“Turkey will have the impression it can continue its current behavior without any restriction” if no punishment is handed down by European leaders, Dendias insisted.
European leaders may discuss the possibility of sanctioning Turkey during the next European Council, to be held on December 10 and 11.