Saturday, 17 September 2011

Turkey on Collision Course with Greece, Cyprus

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Greece has protested a decision by Turkey to send a vessel to search for oil and gas close to Greece's easternmost island.

The escalation of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean comes at a times when Turkey told Cyprus not to go ahead with its plan for offshore oil and gas drilling activities. Cyprus has vowed to "exercise its sovereign rights."

Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded the island. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the south enjoys the membership's benefits.

Greece late Thursday protested Turkey's decision to hire a Norwegian research vessel M/V Bergen Surveyor to survey the south of the island of Kastelorizo — an area outside Greek territorial waters, but where Athens has claimed the rights to potential undersea mineral and fossil fuel deposits.

Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras called on Turkey to avoid "any research activity that affects Greek sovereign rights in the region," saying the area is within Greece's continental shelf.

He said Greece was also contacting the shipping company of the Norwegian research vessel, and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry to make the Greek positions known.

Kastelorizo is part of an isolated group of small islands east of Rhodes, just two miles (three kilometers) off Turkey's southern coastal town of Kas.

Greece and Turkey have had disputes for 37 years over delineating the areas for exploration for oil and gas. Turkey does not accept that the islands have their own continental shelf, which Greece claims is supported by international law.

The two countries came close to war in March 1987 when a Turkish research ship entered the Aegean Sea.

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