Photo: Oruc Reis seismic vessel; Source: General Directorate of the Mineral Research & Exploration of Turkey

Turkey to carry out seismic survey in disputed area of Mediterranean

Exploration vessel Oruc Reis will carry out a seismic survey in the eastern Mediterranean over the next ten days, a move which will further test already tense relationships between Turkey and Greece.

Turkey’s navy said in an advisory on Sunday that the Oruc Reis would be accompanied by two other vessels, the Ataman and Cengiz Han.

According to the navy, the Oruc Reis exploration ship and two accompanying vessels will continue works in an area including the south of Greek island of Kastellorizo until 22 October.

This would be nothing out of the ordinary in most cases but the two countries disagree on all counts over claims to hydrocarbon resources in the area based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters where mostly Greek islands lie.

The foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece met last week and agreed to hold bilateral talks on the disputes.

The Oruc Reis was doing seismic work in the disputed region very recently. Namely, the Oruc Reis vessel was supposed to work until 1 September but it was decided that it would extend its operations until 12 September.

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Reuters reported last month that the exploration vessel arrived off the coast of Antalya on Sunday, 13 September.

The return of the vessel was seen as a positive move by Greece which was hoping to resolve these issues behind a negotiating table.

But, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar played down the significance of the move, saying the ship had returned to shore as part of scheduled plans.

He was adamant that Oruc Reis’ return did not mean Ankara had given up its rights in the area. “There are planned operations. There will be back-and-forth movements within the framework of this plan”, Akar said.

Although, Turkey did claim that removing Oruc Reis from contested waters was a move to “allow for diplomacy” ahead of a European Union summit.

Turkey official stance is that its legitimate claim over the area in the eastern Mediterranean is valid. Also, any disputes made by Cyprus are dismissed by Ankara since it has no diplomatic relations with it.

It is worth reminding that Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Its internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government represents the whole island in the European Union, though its authority is effectively contained to the southern part. North Cyprus is an unrecognised Turkish Cypriot state recognised only by Ankara.

All recent exploration done by the Oruc Reis was conducted following a massive gas discovery in the Black Sea.

Turkey’s Fatih drillship made a 320 billion cubic metre gas discovery in the Tuna-1 (or Danube-1 in English) well. This discovery was dubbed transformational due to the country’s overwhelming reliance on imports and crippling energy import bill.