Turkey vows to step up gas exploration in east Med
Turkey will step up energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, vowing Ankara will not "compromise" on its rights despite Greek fury.
The search for oil and gas has long been a source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, which have deteriorated as Ankara resumes exploration activities. Greece called for an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers on Tuesday, after Turkey dispatched a research vessel accompanied by warships to disputed waters on Monday.
Revving up the tensions, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara will issue licences for new areas in the "western part of our continental shelf" from the end of August.
"We will conduct all kinds of seismic research, drilling activities. Our determination is absolute," Cavusoglu told reporters. "We will defend the rights of Turkey... in the eastern Mediterranean and we will not compromise in any way on this," he said.
Ankara paused the search for oil and gas off a Greek island last month, saying it wanted to see how talks with Greece and Germany progressed. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a resumption of the search for energy last Friday, blaming Greece for not keeping its promises.
The EU considers Turkish oil and gas drilling off the coast of Cyprus illegal. But Cavusoglu said despite "our good intentions", Greece was "ill-intentioned", adding: "If they're going to blame anyone, they should blame Greece."
Turkish officials were particularly incensed by a deal agreed last week between Greece and Egypt to set up an exclusive economic zone in the region, which Ankara said was "null and void". Ankara signed its own controversial agreement last year with Libya's UN-recognised government in Tripoli, which claimed extensive areas of the sea for Turkey.
Turkey sent one vessel to the area last week while a second, which arrived accompanied by warships on Monday, is expected to carry out activities off the island of Kastellorizo until August 23.