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“Hydrocarbon research within Turkish continental shelf,” claims Ankara

Ankara claims that the hydrocarbon exploration activities by research vessel Oruc Reis will be “in the maritime area […] located entirely within the Turkish continental shelf.” This is the response of Turkey to a protest demarche submitted late on Tuesday by the Greek Embassy in the Turkish capital.

The demarche protested the NAVTEX issued for the maritime zone South-East of the island of Kastellorizo. The announcement of Turkish surveys “in a section of the Greek continental shelf through a new illegal NAVTEX constitutes an escalation of tension in our region and highlights Turkey’s persistence in violating International Law and the Law of the Sea,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The maritime area, in which Oruç Reis will conduct a survey, is located entirely within the Turkish continental shelf as declared to the United Nations and within the license blocks granted by Turkish Government to TPAO in 2012. As a matter of fact, our seismic research vessel Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa had also conducted a survey in previous years within a portion of the same area,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Ankara argues that it has delimitated its continental shelf through the controversial agreement with the government in Tripolis, in civil-war torn Libya – even though this ignored the rights of its neighboring countries such as Greece and Cyprus.

“This being the case, Greece raised objections to the current survey activity and claimed that the survey area is within its own continental shelf. Greece bases this claim on the presence of remote islands far from its own mainland, most notably Kastellorizo,” the statement added.

Ankara claimed further that “this maximalist continental shelf claim of Greece is contrary to international law, jurisprudence and court decisions.”

Disregarding the International Law and the fact that also islands do have continental shelf, Turkey reiterated its claim that an island such as Kastellorizo cannot have a continental shelf.

“The argument that an island of 10 square kilometers, located only 2 kilometers away from Anatolia and 580 kilometers from the Greek mainland should generate a continental shelf area of 40.000 square kilometers is neither rational nor in line with international law. We therefore reject these unjustified assertions of Greece,” the Foreign Ministry in Ankara said.

In its statement the Turkish Foreign Ministry called on Greece to engage in a dialogue.

However, the basis for a bilateral dialogue is uneven. For Greece the only issue is the delimitation of the continental shelf, while Turkey has a long list of claims including the challenge of Greek sovereignty over Greek islands and the review to the Treaty of Lauzanne that marked the borders of modern Turkey in 1923.

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