Increased Turkish seismic research in Eastern Mediterranean angers Cyprus and Greece

Turkey will step up its operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, an area of contention between Greece and Cyprus over energy drilling, government officials said on Thursday.

A Turkish vessel is set to conduct seismic research in disputed parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, including areas west of Cyprus that Greece and the Greek Republic of Cyprus have claimed. Ankara says the areas lie on Turkey’s continental shelf and opposes Greek Cypriot drilling since it “infringes on the rights” of the island’s Turkish Cypriots, whose administration is only formally recognised by Turkey.

The move comes after Nicosia filed an official complaint to the United Nations about Turkey’s naval presence in the Exclusive Economic Zone on the coast of Cyprus. The EEZ reserves drilling rights for natural gas reserves for Cyprus, but Turkey has demanded that the rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to its share of the islands resources are respected.

The formal complaint targets the Turkish ship Barbaros, which was sent to the Eastern Mediterranean months ago and is conducting the seismic research, Greek Reporter wrote.

The Barbaros began oil and gas exploration off western Cyprus in mid-October 2018. A Turkish Navy armada escorted the research vessel, operated by the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation, through the eastern Mediterranean waters last month due to potential harassment from Greek ships, Turkish pro-government media reported.

“On October 18, 2018, the Turkish state-owned survey vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa and supporting vessels, accompanied and supported by Turkish warships, commenced seismic surveys in the southwest areas of the continental shelf/EEZ of Cyprus,” said the letter from Cyprus to the U.N., dated Dec. 12, 2018.

The letter said the seismic surveys “constitute a violation by Turkey of the sovereign rights of Cyprus under international law and, in particular, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

The seismic research from Barbaros will continue this month with aid from two support ships.

In addition to searching off the coast of Cyprus, Turkey has begun a deep drilling mission off the coast of Antalya province in the Mediterranean. Turkey and Cyprus have “overlapping claims of jurisdiction for offshore oil and gas research” in the region, Reuters wrote in October 2018.…