Germany, EU concerned over Ankara’s deployment of survey ship

“We consider that Turkey needs to engage actively in finding solutions and not to engage in negative behaviour,” said EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell.
Tuesday 13/10/2020
A file picture shows Turkish seismic research vessel ‘Oruc Reis’ heading in the west of Antalya on the Mediterranean Sea.  AFP
A file picture shows Turkish seismic research vessel ‘Oruc Reis’ heading in the west of Antalya on the Mediterranean Sea. ( AFP)

BERLIN –Germany and the European Union on Tuesday voiced their concerns after Ankara’s decision to redeploy a research ship at the centre of tensions with Greece over energy and maritime rights.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on Turkey to end a “cycle of detente and provocation” in the Mediterranean while EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell who chaired the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg said Turkey’s actions were “regrettable.”

“This will lead to new tensions instead of contributing to de-escalation efforts we were calling for at the last European Council,” Borrell told reporters after a meeting in Luxembourg with EU foreign ministers.

“We consider that Turkey needs to engage actively in finding solutions and not to engage in negative behaviour.”

Borrell added EU leaders have taken a position on Turkey and will return to the issue again this week.

“If there should be renewed Turkish gas exploration in the more controversial sea areas in the eastern Mediterranean, this would be a serious setback for efforts to de-escalate,” Maas said ahead of a trip to Cyprus and Greece.

“Ankara must end the cycle of detente and provocation if the government is interested in talks,” said Maas, whose country heads the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Turkey on Monday raised tensions with its neighbours after it said it would return the seismic research vessel, Oruc Reis, into the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey is acting against international law and all the conclusions of the European Council, “as the disruptor of peace and stability in the region”, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in Luxembourg.

“What is the common denominator in all problematic situations in the region: Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Cyprus, South-East Mediterranean. The common denominator is Turkey.”

In August, the Oruc Reis triggered diplomatic tensions and rival naval manoeuvres when it searched for oil and gas deposits, before Turkey pulled it back to shore last month.

 

Maas said he assured EU partners Greece and Cyprus had Germany’s “full solidarity” and urged Turkey to ensure that dialogue with Greece was not thwarted by “unilateral measures”.

Discussions on the escalating situation could take place at the EU summit starting Thursday this week.

Turkey announced on Sunday that the Oruc Reis would carry out more exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, including south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, prompting a furious response from Athens.

The move threatens to reignite a row over gas exploration that saw the two NATO countries stage rival military drills in August in waters between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.

EU leaders at a summit earlier this month warned Turkey it could face sanctions if it does not engage constructively to cool tensions.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday for talks focused on Brexit talks with London and efforts to tackle climate change, but Borrell said they would also look at the latest developments with Turkey.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said he had briefed his counterparts at Luxembourg on Turkish actions around Kastellorizo — a Greek island which lies just two kilometres (1.2 miles) off the Turkish coast.

“Turkey is acting as the disruptor of peace and stability in the region. That is against international law, it is against all the conclusions of the European Council,” Dendias told reporters in Luxembourg.

A senior minister said Tuesday Greece will not hold talks with Turkey on defusing tension in the eastern Mediterranean unless Ankara withdraws an energy research ship from contested areas.

“(Greece) will not sit at the table for exploratory talks while the Oruc Reis and escorting warships are out there,” Minister of State George Gerapetritis told Parapolitika radio.

He said Athens would “emphatically” raise the dispute at a European council meeting starting Thursday.

Greece claims rights over the waters around its island of Kastellorizo but Turkey says the island’s close proximity to its longer coastline makes the territory a legitimate area for its vessels to explore.