President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today that Turkey would continue its oil and gas exploration operation in the Mediterranean Sea. Turkey has butt heads with Greece and Cyprus over their presence in the Mediterranean looking for energy sources.
“Whatever our rights are, we will take those one way or another. And we will carry out our oil exploration operations in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus, and all those seas,” said Erdogan in the province of Sakarya today, addressing the disagreement over whether or not Turkey even has the right to occupy those waters.
This exact question of Turkey’s presence in the Mediterranean has lead to threats of sanctions and restrictions from the European Union, demanding that they conduct their activities legally. The United States has also risen to the defense of Greece and Cyprus when it comes to Turkey’s offshore activity.
Testifying before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the United States has spoken up about actions that violate international law in the Eastern Mediterranean — which includes Turkey’s actions against Greece.
“We have looked with real concern over the last year and of course more recently, at some of the actions taken in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly by Turkey, in terms of various claims,” Blinken said.
“It is very important that the US stands up and engages in advancing stability sovereignty and territorial integrity of all parties in Eastern Mediterranean and insists that any disputes that arise will be resolved peacefully, diplomatically, not militarily, not through provocative actions,” he added.
“We have called out actions, including by Turkey, that violate international law or commitments as NATO ally and that includes provocative actions against Greece like violations of airspace,” the Secretary of State added.
Turkey reverses its position on oil drilling
Because the pressure from the US and the EU was so immense, Turkey began to remove its vessels from the Mediterranean and cease drilling activity in November of last year. Turkey was hoping to smooth things out with Greece and began talks with the nation, speaking directly for the first time in five years.
But in April Turkey indicated that they would begin to explore the Mediterranean for various sources of energy again, according to statements made by Fatih Donmez, the country’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister:
“The (seismic vessel) Oruc Reis continues its seismic surveys off the coast of Antalya,” he stated, before going on to name two other vessels that Turkey has employed in oil and gas exploration in recent years.
President Erdogans comments today seem to suggest that they have every intent on staying in the Mediterranean.