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Tension in the Aegean: Turkey sends Oruc Reis south of Greek islands

Tension is high again in the south-eastern Aegean and East Mediterranean sea after Turkey issued a new NAVTEX, blocked the sea area south of the Greek islands of Kastellorizo, Rhodes and Megisti and sent drilling vessel Oruc Reis for seismic research early Monday morning.

Seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis and two supply vessels, the Ataman and the Cengiz Han, have closed their signal transmitters and cannot be detected via satellite systems.

There are reports that the three vessels are accompanied by war ships.

Video released by Ankara on Oruc Reis leaving the port of Antalya.

Energy Minister Fatih Donmez “confirmed” the sailing of the vessel saying that “83 million Turks were behind it.”

The notice for navigation NAVTEX is valid August 10-23, 2020 and blocks areas similar to those 17 days ago, when Ankara was sending the Oruc Reis for hydrocarbon exploration but halted its plans due to German intervention, pretending it was a “good will gesture” ahead of negotiations that were supposed to start between Greece and Turkey on August 24. However, Turkey withdrew following the agreement between Greece and Egypt.

The new Turkish provocation is directly linked to the maritime boundaries agreement signed between Greece and Egypt last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

“By order of our president, our ships are heading to the area. So it seems that there have been concessions from the sovereign rights of the islands and Crete and this essentially strengthens our positions. This agreement (Greece – Egypt) is in our interest, because no one can tell us that we are causing tension. No one can say not to go to these areas. No one can say anything about the research and drilling that Turkey will do in the Eastern Mediterranean. And everyone saw that Greece does not want dialogue,” Cavusoglu said on Monday morning.

“The agreement between Greece and Italy as well as this with Egypt strengthen out positions that the islands cannot have continental shelf,” he claimed.

Meanwhile Greece deployed ships of its Navy to the area in the Aegean where the Oruc Reis is supposed to start drilling. The ships left the port of Elefsina and other ports, state broadcaster ERT TV reported.

Even if the Oruc Reis shut down its transmitters, Greece is monitoring its moves with aerial and navy means.

Prime Minister KJyriakos Mitasotakis is launching a barrage of contacts with international bodies and he is scheduled to speak with the Secretary General of the NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, at 5 p.m.

The Premier made clear last week, that Greece will no longer accept NATO’s “policy of equal distances” towards its two members.

The Chiefs of Staffs met Monday morning on the issue, an extraordinary meeting of the Greece’s highest Foreign Affairs and Defense Council (KYSEA) is currently taking place. the Greek Navy is reportedly to issue an anti-NAVTEX cancelling the one issued by Turkey.

“Greece is in full political and operational readiness,” state Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis said.

This time, Athens seems determined to not allow one more Turkish provocation in the Aegean to pass through without reaction and consequences.

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