Greece has slammed Turkey’s announcement that it will be conducting energy exploration in an area of the Eastern Mediterranean that overlaps its continental shelf, as tension over the rights to natural resources increased sharply in the region on Tuesday.
Officials have said that the Greek military was on alert, while Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis convened on Monday the government’s national security council.
“Greece will not accept any blackmail. It will defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights,” Greece’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“We call on Turkey to immediately end its illegal actions that undermine peace and security in the region,” it added.
Turkey issued a Navtex on Monday announcing its research vessel Oruc Reis and two auxiliary vessels would be conducting seismic exploration in an area between Greece and Cyprus until August 23.
Turkey still maintains troops in the northern part of EU-member Cyprus after a military invasion in the summer of 1974.
Last week, Turkey also announced it would be conducting a two-day firing exercise in the eastern Mediterranean which began on Monday in a nearby area, southwest of the Turkish coast between Turkey and the Greek island of Rhodes.
Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez said the Oruc Reis had arrived in its area of operation from its anchorage off Turkey’s southern coast. He tweeted that “83 million back the Oruc Reis,” referring to Turkey’s population.
Greek Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis said the Oruc Reis was not transmitting through the automatic identification system carried by ships, but was being monitored by the Greek navy.
On Monday, Greece issued its own maritime safety message saying the Turkish Navtex had been issued by an “unauthorized station” and referring to “unauthorized and illegal activity in an area that overlaps the Greek continental shelf.”
Turkey retorted with another maritime message saying the seismic survey was being conducted on Turkey’s continental shelf.
NATO allies Greece and Turkey have been at odds for decades over a wide variety of issues and have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, including once over drilling exploration rights.
Recent discoveries of natural gas and drilling plans across the East Mediterranean have led to renewed tension.
Greece’s prime minister Mitsotakis spoke on Monday with European Council President Charles Michel and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
After the call, Stoltenberg tweeted that “the situation must be resolved in a spirit of Allied solidarity and in accordance with international law.”