‘Unnecessary’: Greece protests Turkey’s deployment of survey vessel in disputed waters

Greece’s Foreign Ministry issued a verbal protest to Ankara on Thursday after Turkey’s Navy said it would deploy a research vessel into an area of the Aegean Sea where Greece has competing interests.

Turkey had issued a naval advisory saying its research vessel Cesme would be surveying an area of the disputed part of the Aegean from Thursday through to March 2.

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The move drew verbal protests from Greece’s Foreign Ministry. “It’s an unnecessary move which does not help positive sentiment,” government spokesman Christos Tarantilis said in Athens on Thursday.

Athens said the notice of deployment was invalid as the issuing naval station does not have the authority to give notice for the area in question.

The two neighbors and NATO allies have long disputed areas of the Aegean Sea that separate them and both have yet to confirm a date for the next round of talks to try and resolve their differences.

The neighbors are at odds over competing territorial claims to Mediterranean waters, the status of some islands in the Aegean, energy rights and air space, making little progress in 60 rounds of talks from 2002 to 2016.

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A plan to kickstart talks was scuttled last year over Ankara’s deployment of a seismic survey vessel looking for oil and gas deposits in disputed waters. The vessel was eventually withdrawn. Ankara and Athens agreed to a resumption of talks in January in Istanbul after the EU had threatened sanctions on Turkey. The next meeting is due to be held in Athens but no firm agenda or date have been fixed.

The Cesme last carried out a hydrographic survey of the area in 2018 – closely monitored by the Greek Navy. This time around, the Turkish Navy says it will survey waters around the islands of Limnos, Skyros, and Alonnisos.

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