Turkey suspends oil drilling in Med as ‘goodwill gesture’

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Turkey suspended planned research in the eastern Mediterranean by its seismic vessel Oruç Reis as a goodwill gesture for ongoing negotiations with Greece, a Turkish official said on July 28.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his aides to “be constructive and put this on hold for some time,” Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın told private broadcaster CNN Türk.

Last week, Turkey announced plans to dispatch research vessel Oruç Reis and two support vessels to carry out operations through Aug. 2 in waters south of the Greek islands of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kastelorizo. The declaration increased tensions with neighboring Greece and prompted criticism by the United States, France and other European countries.

“Everyone should continue working on their continental shelves and conduct joint work in contested areas,” Kalın said. He stressed that Turkey did not violate international law, but Greece should abstain maximalist approach for its maritime rights when it comes to its Island Kastellorizo in the south of the Turkish mainland.

Turkey’s NAVTEX advisory was for a region that falls 180 kilometers away from Greece’s Island Kastellorizo, he noted.
He also said that bilateral issues with Greece should be solved through dialogue rather than through threats on Turkey’s bid for European Union membership.

Kalın mentioned ongoing talks with Greece mediated by Germany and said German Chancellor Angela Merkel has a “constructive approach” on the issue.

Germany proposes confidence-building measures in the Mediterranean aiming to eliminate any possible tension between Ankara and Athens, also aims to “lay a positive ground with Turkey” taking positive steps in favor of Ankara during the German Eu presidency, Kalın stated.

NATO allies Greece and Turkey are at odds over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has accused Greece of trying to exclude it from the benefits of oil and gas finds in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, arguing that sea boundaries for commercial exploitation should be divided between the Greek and Turkish mainlands and not include the Greek islands on an equal basis. Athens counters that Turkey’s position is a violation of international law.

On July 27, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Turkey was withdrawing navy vessels from the area, adding that Athens remained ready to enter negotiations with Turkey “within the framework of international law and
good neighborly relations.”

Hurriyet Daily News

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