Turkey tries to block Israel, Greece, EU undersea cable

Ankara chafes at exclusion from increasing ties between its neighbours.
Tuesday 16/03/2021
Greek Minister of Environment and Energy Kostas Skrekas, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, Cyprus’ Minister of Energy, Commerce, and Industry, Natasa Pilides, sign an  “EuroAsia Interconnector” MOU, ,March 8, 2021 (AFP)
Greek Minister of Environment and Energy Kostas Skrekas, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, Cyprus’ Minister of Energy, Commerce, and Industry, Natasa Pilides, sign an “EuroAsia Interconnector” MOU, ,March 8, 2021 (AFP)

ANKARA--Turkey has told Israel, Greece and the European Union to seek its permission before assuming work on a projected undersea power cable in disputed eastern Mediterranean waters, Turkish state media reported Monday.

Cyprus, Israel and Greece last week signed an initial agreement on laying the world’s longest undersea power cable linking their electricity grids.

But the proposed link is set to run through contested waters at the centre of last year’s tensions between Turkey and Greece linked to Ankara’s search for natural gas.

In a diplomatic note sent to the two countries’ embassies and the EU delegation, Ankara said the three must seek its permission before conducting any work in Turkey’s continental shelf, state news agency Anadolu reported, quoting unnamed diplomatic sources.

The 1,200-kilometre EuroAsia Interconnector’s projected plans show it passing through Turkey’s continental shelf, the TRT Haber state broadcaster reported.

Any preliminary work or related initial cable-laying activities thus require Turkey’s approval, Ankara said in its note, the channel added.

Turkey and Greece Maritime border dispute (AFP)

Turkish officials argue that with its long Mediterranean coastline, Ankara has a greater right to the waters in the region than Greece, whose claims in the area are based on a small island.

Previously, Cyprus, Israel and Greece had teamed up for a planned $6 billion undersea pipeline to carry gas from new offshore deposits in the southeastern Mediterranean to continental Europe, by bypassing Turkey.

Israel, Greece and Cyprus have also conducted a joint naval exercise last week, in the latest example of increased cooperation between the three which increasingly view Turkey as a rival in the Mediterranean Sea.

Ankara deployed a research vessel backed with navy frigates last year, despite repeated calls to stop from Athens and Brussels. They withdrew them after the EU threatened sanctions.

In January, Turkey and Greece held their first talks on maritime issues since 2016.

Although there was no breakthrough at the Istanbul talks, the NATO allies will again meet in Athens on Tuesday.