Turkey Suspends Oil and Gas Research Amid International Tensions

By Adriaan Brits Friday, August 7, 2020

Turkey has decided to suspend the oil and gas research that was to be carried out in the East Mediterranean sea. This had raised military tensions with the neighboring country of Greece, since they were close to trespassing sea borders.

The president of the company, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has announced that he will put the research on hold due to newly raised tensions. There was a sense of uncertainty and nervousness in the air last week when Turkey announced their initial plan for research vessels and supporting ships to be dispatched from the beginning of August. This had meant that they would have been circulating around Greek islands close to Turkey’s coastline, namely Rhodes, Karpathos, and Kastellorizo.

International Response

This brings great tension with Greece and other countries such as the US and France - all advising Turkey not to trespass and back down. With the drilling rights still in discussion, there have been accusations from Turkey that Greece is stopping them from exercising their rights to drill oil from the Aegean Sea and the East Mediterranean Sea. The planned research was initially meant to be 180 kilometers away from the Greek islands.

Ibrahim Kalin had stated on CNN Turk, “Greece gave an extreme reaction after our Navtex as if we will go occupy Meis Island (Kastellorizo). Nevertheless, the White House248 'since these negotiations are continuing, let's see what happens and put this on hold for some time.”

As a reaction to the announcement of the ships being dispatched around the Greek islands, Greece brought out the army onto the sea to protect the territory, so that Turkey does not breach the international law. However, Turkey believes that actions shouldn’t be shown through threats of the EU membership, but that there should be communication through dialogue on the fairgrounds of being able to explore the territory near Turkey and what also belongs to Greece.

Kalin said on CNN Turk, “Everyone should continue working on their own continental shelves and conduct joint work in contested areas.”

Kalin also announced that, "Within the framework of our president's orders, we are ready to speak about all bilateral issues with Greece without preconditions: the Aegean, continental shelves, islands, air space, exploration, and the Eastern Mediterranean."

However, in Athens, Greek Government spokesman Stelios Petsas told the Greek news channel Skai that, “This is a positive development. We want to have open channels of communication with Turkey and to discuss the issue that has been plaguing the two sides for many decades now: The demarcation of maritime zones. This is the issue, which of course needs the proper framework to move forward.”

Turkey’s Response

Once Turkey had refrained from exploring the close territories, they had put in a new request with NAVTEX to explore the waters around Cyprus. Even though the northern border of Cyprus belongs to Turkey, Turkey is looking to explore the southern waters that still belong to Greece and Southern Cyprus.

This again brings tensions for both Greece and Cyprus, since Turkey wants to trespass its maritime territory. Most European countries including Germany are condemning Turkey from wanting to explore territorial waters that breach international laws.

However, it was later announced by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that a week after the announcement was made, a meeting was held in Berlin by Germany, with Kalin and the Greek prime minister's diplomatic office. Germany had made attempts to be allied with both sides, and the meeting was held in the beginning of July.

Even though there are talks of cooperating with the territorial waters near the Greek islands, it is still unsure of what will come as a conclusion. Turkey still wishes to be part of the EU, which has been threatened if they choose to try to explore the waters near the Greek islands. While Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas stated that there would be talks and showed a positive attitude towards Turkey, he did also state to Skai that Turkey’s actions were illegal.

A History of Unrest

The relationships between Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus have always been tense, with years of threats and issues. This dates back to the Ottoman Empire when Turkey took Greece under their occupation. In 1975, Turkey invaded Cyprus, which caused a division that still exists today in the country.

Turkey still occupies the northern side; however, that side of the country is a ghost town, whereas the southern side still has Greek Cypriots who are in close relations with Greece. It is unknown whether the relationships will improve with Turkey, however, there is a positive light shed on the fact that they are in talks of cooperating with each other.

About the Author

Headshot for author Adriaan Brits
As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.

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