EU condemns Turkey's gas exploration mission in East Med

The European Union on Wednesday condemned an announcement by Turkey that it was extending the mission of a gas exploration ship in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara remains locked in a dispute with Greece and Cyprus over rights to hydrocarbon resources.

“The latest Navtex announcements and the continued conduct of seismic survey activities by Turkey, which is affecting Greek and Cypriot maritime zones, are deeply regrettable - especially in view of ongoing constructive attempts at all levels to create space for dialogue,” Agence France-Press cited EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell as saying in a statement.

Turkey late Tuesday issued a new navigational telex (Navtex) reserving an area within the Mediterranean island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for Turkey’s Barbaros seismic survey vessel. The navtexreserves an area off the southwestern coast of Cyprus until Feb. 21.

“This is yet another course of action that, unfortunately, continues to create more tensions and distrust in the region instead of contributing to lasting solutions,” Borrell added.

Greece and Turkey have long disagreed on overlapping claims on hydrocarbon resources in the region, with both sides holding conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend in the waters. The latest bout of tensions was sparked by forays of Turkey’s exploration ship in the contested waters, which has infuriated Athens and sparked protests by Mediterranean nations.

Meanwhile, Cyprus on Wednesday called on Turkey to withdraw Barbaros from the island's EEZ.

A counter-Navtex issued by Cyprus’ Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) said the action “constitutes a violation of international law and maritime safety procedures and it is also a criminal offence under the laws of the Republic of Cyprus,”Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported.