Turkey just gave the “green light” for its geophysical exploration ship Sismik to begin surveys in the Aegean. The order was given by the anatolia news agency, as seen in the above picture (published on onalert.gr). Some may remember this ship from 1987. In late March 1987, the Turkish survey ship Sismik attempted to enter Greek waters and conduct surveys. It is suspected that the Greek intelligence services reported the intention to acting Prime Minister (at the time) Andreas Papandreou, who in return gave the orders to sink the ship if found within Greek waters. This incident nearly started a war between Greece and Turkey that year. A few days later there was a conflict between border patrols which left 1 Greek casualty to 2 Turkish.
Today, Ankara has decided to use the same ship to escalate tensions even more in the region.
Cyprus announced plans earlier this year to begin drilling for oil on October 1 on the Mediterranean shelf close to the island, which is divided into Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sectors.
Turkey’s energy minister says that if Cyprus starts to drill for oil and gas off its shores, Turkey will launch a similar exploration within a week under the protection of Turkish warships.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yildiz on Monday called on Cyprus to cancel plans for oil drilling on the Mediterranean shelf and threatened retaliatory measures if it goes ahead. “We (Turkey) will begin oil extraction in the Mediterranean Sea starting next week, if the Greek Cypriots follow their planned schedule. Our seismic vessels will be escorted by warships,” Yildiz said.
Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a sovereign country and opposes any Greek Cypriot oil and gas search, insisting that Turkish Cypriots should reap any windfall that may come from any discoveries. It also says drilling could damage long-running reunification talks
Meanwhile in Brussels, and in light to all these developments, the EU Commision called on all parties to exercise restraint.
Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Stavros Lambrinides on the other hand assured that Greece would stand by Cyprus in case Turkey decided to attack, and noted that the Eastern Mediterranean does not need a “gendarme“, especially one who, instead of implementing international law, is the first to violate it. He also said that Greece will do everything necessary to fully defend its sovereign rights.