Turkish minister Mevlut Cavusoglu displayed a map showing the Turkish continental shelf reaching Crete, and violations over the Aegean and natural gas research in the Cyprus EEZ signal escalation by Ankara, while Athens cautiously evaluates incoming information and makes its own plans.
Things are getting more complicated with Turkey. The latest episode in a series of challenges and violations is the map showing the Turkish shelf extending south of Kastellorizo and Rhodes, east of Crete. This controversial map was presented by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at a conference of Turkish Ambassadors in Ankara. It is the same map that had been published in the Turkish Government Gazette on April 27, 2012. At that time, Ankara circles had circulated it internationally, and it had been sent to the United Nations with all official authority, thus attempting to legalize its absurd claims.
The feeling, however, circulating in diplomatic circles, both in Athens and in Nicosia, is that the time of crisis – whatever it is or whenever it may come – is approaching. If one takes diplomatic sources seriously, the most likely month is October, when the tourist season is over.
But whenever the time when things are derailed between Athens-Nicosia and Ankara, one thing is certain: If Ankara’s intention is to conduct seismic investigations in the area starting from the south of Rhodes and reaching beyond Kastellorizo is confirmed, we are facing an escalation. And it is an escalation of a blatant violation of Greek sovereign rights.
At this point it should be recalled that the Turkish oil company TRAO has already conducted preliminary, seismic investigations, within the Greek continental shelf, in the Kastellorizo area. Athens then sent the frigate “Nikiforos Fokas”, which sent a signal informing the ship of its presence on the Greek shelf.
Of course, in Athens they are carefully evaluating the information they receive, and a thorough discussion was held during Mitsotakis’ visit to Nicosia. Plans for the involvement of the Hellenic Navy have already been drawn up, with the Armed Forces now on alert.
In the context of Tayip Erdogan’s pursuit of not being sidelined in energy issues, nor endlessly trapped in informal geopolitical marginalization in a region of high value to Turkish interests, will seek to come at the expense of sovereign rights States. And this, in fact, at a time when efforts are being made to restart the Cyprus talks.
The already tense situation in the Eastern Mediterranean is compounded by Erdogan’s announcement yesterday. In it he expressed his intention to conduct a military operation east of Euphrates. It is a Kurdish-controlled area in which Americans are directly involved, often preventing Turkish troops from launching operations. So at this stage the key question is whether the Turkish president is bluffing. Should he carry out his proclamations in Syria, he will face US and French troops. This could have far-reaching consequences, especially at a time when US-Turkish relations have deteriorated. Among other things, because of the purchase of the S-400 from Russia. Regarding this issue that continues to cast its shadow on US-Turkish relations, the Turkish Foreign Minister said the planned sanctions against Ankara for the S-400s are not in line with the spirit of the alliance.
The Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets also rushed to stand by Turkey. In an extensive article, it made a historical retrospective from the time of the Soviet Union to the invasion of Cyprus, which it describes as justified! In fact, ite concludes that “Turkey has been wronged by the West in contrast to Greece and Cyprus, which have been favored by it.”
On the other hand, it is worth remembering that in two days from today, the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy is hosting the first Energy Ministerial Conference with the participation of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and the US. This is the first time a ministerial conference on energy issues is being held, with the US government also attending.