Turkey Continues Its Offshore Exploration

Turkey Continues Its Offshore Exploration

The saga continues, Turkey resumed oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea days after the government said it would delay offshore surveys to seek a diplomatic resolution with Greece.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday announced the decision to dispatch a seismic research vessel, after Greece signed a deal with Egypt to draw maritime boundaries between the two countries.

Erdogan accused Greece of failing to abide by pledges that convinced Turkey to halt offshore work while German Chancellor Angela Merkel began mediating. The latest twist in the conflict in the eastern Mediterranean shows the gargantuan task awaiting Turkey and Greece as they try and negotiate a resolution.

The latest spat arose when Turkey said it would survey the seabed in an area that Greece says falls in its jurisdiction because of the nearby Greek island of Kastellorizo. The two sides rely on fundamentally different legal arguments to make their claims in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.

Ankara argues that a country’s continental shelf should be measured from its mainland, and that the area south of the Greek island — just a few kilometers off Turkey’s southern coast — therefore falls within its exclusive zone.

Greece says that islands must also be taken into account in delineating a country’s continental shelf, in line with the United Nations Law of the Sea, giving it the sole right to the area regardless of the island’s proximity to Turkey. Ankara has not signed up to that law.