Ankara: ‘We have received indications of the presence of a reserve of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and Turkey will continue with its exploration operations,’ President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned. Bilateral issues were discussed between the heads of states of Greece and Turkey on the sidelines of the NATO summit last month. The tensions between the two states were expected to ease after the discussions. However, the tensions seem set to worsen in the wake of the Turkish president’s controversial remarks.
The various surveys carried out in the past few years reveal vast oil and gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea. Turkey has initiated aggressive moves over the last year to seize control of as many reserves as possible. In addition, Turkey has begun to stake its claim over the energy reserves falling in Greek and Cypriot territories. In August, it even sent its research ship and warships in the Mediterranean waters and then started executing a series of operations.
Greece had stepped up its military deployments in the Mediterranean Sea in protest of Turkey’s operations. It had even focussed on emboldening strategic cooperation with France, the UAE, Israel and Egypt. Further, Greece tried to add political pressure on Turkey through the European Union and NATO. Greece’s aggression and international pressure had forced Turkey to withdraw from the waters. Also, as the incoming Biden administration signalled its support to Greece after the change of guard in the United States, Turkey was believed to be in a fix.
President Erdogan, nevertheless, started taking provocative steps again over the last week. Only a few days ago, the Turkish president announced he would be visiting Turkish areas in Cyprus on July 20. In 1974, Turkey had invaded Cyprus and taken control of some of its land. The president’s visit is in commemoration of the operation, the Turkish government stated. Erdogan’s visit has drawn a severe reaction from Greece and the EU.
Even as the dispute over Cyprus continues, Turkey appears to have freshly challenged the scuffle with Greece by bringing up the issue of energy exploration. ‘Turkey has been informed of the presence of energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. We will be taking up gas exploration in the region. We have the right to the area and will be utilising it to the fullest. Turkey will be carrying out operations in the eastern Mediterranean, Cypriot waters and nearby areas,’ Erdogan said.
Although Greece has not responded to Erdogan’s statements, the EU had already warned Turkey of sanctions. Therefore, analysts believe that the EU could take stern action if Turkey conducts a new operation in the Mediterranean.