Greece slams Turkish announcement on research in eastern Med

Greece slams Turkish announcement on research in eastern Med
Above, Greek coast guard members patrol on a boat on the Mediterranean sea on March 19, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 10 August 2020

Greece slams Turkish announcement on research in eastern Med

Greece slams Turkish announcement on research in eastern Med
  • Greek Foreign Ministry: ‘Greece will not accept any blackmail. It will defend its sovereign rights’
  • The two countries are NATO allies, but Turkey's relationship with the US and NATO is becoming increasingly strained

ATHENS: Greece on Monday slammed a Turkish announcement that it will be conducting energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean in an area Athens says overlaps its continental shelf, as tension increased sharply in the region.
Officials said Greece’s military was on alert, while Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis convened the government’s national security council after Turkey issued a Navtex, or international maritime safety message, Monday announcing its research vessel Oruc Reis and two auxiliary vessels would be conducting seismic exploration in an area between Greece and Cyprus until Aug. 23.
Last week, Turkey also announced it would be conducing a firing exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Monday and Tuesday in a nearby area, southwest of the Turkish coast between Turkey and the Greek island of Rhodes.
“Greece will not accept any blackmail. It will defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights,” Greece’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We call on Turkey to immediately end its illegal actions that undermine peace and security in the region.”
The ministry said Monday’s Navtex “combined with the observed broad mobilization of units of the Turkish Navy, constitutes a new serious escalation.” Turkey is acting in a way that is destabilizing and threatening peace, it added.
Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez said the Oruc Reis had arrived in its area of operation from its anchorage off Turkey’s southern coast. He tweeted that “83 million back the Oruc Reis,” referring to Turkey’s population.
Greek Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis said the Oruc Reis was not transmitting through the automatic identification system carried by ships, but was being monitored by the Greek Navy.
“We are at full political and operational readiness,” Gerapetritis said on state television ERT.
“The majority of the fleet is ready at this moment to go out wherever is needed,” he said when asked to elaborate. “Our ships that are sailing in crucial areas were already in place days ago. If necessary there will be a greater development of the fleet.”
Gerapetritis said that “it is clear that we are not seeking any tension in the region. On the other hand our determination is a given.”
Greece on Monday issued its own maritime safety message saying the Turkish Navtex had been issued by an “unauthorized station” and referred to “unauthorized and illegal activity in an area that overlaps the Greek continental shelf.”
A crucial issue of the dispute is whether islands should be included in calculating a country’s continental shelf and maritime zones of economic interest. Turkey argues they should not be, a position Greece says violates international law. Greece has thousands of islands and islets in the Aegean and Ionian seas, around 200 of them inhabited.
Tension has increased in recent months over drilling rights and maritime boundaries. Late last month, Turkey had said it was suspending its exploratory operations in the eastern Mediterranean, and the move was seen as somewhat defusing the situation.
But last week Ankara slammed a deal Greece and Egypt signed Thursday delineating maritime boundaries and the countries’ exclusive economic zones for drilling rights.
Last year, Turkey signed a similar deal with the UN-backed Libyan government in Tripoli, sparking outrage in Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, who all said it infringed on their economic rights in the Mediterranean. The European Union says it’s a violation of intentional law that threatens stability in the region.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said Berlin had “taken note with concern” of Turkey’s decision to conduct seismic exploration. He said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas “has repeatedly said that international law must be respected and that we need steps toward deescalation in the eastern Mediterranean. And in view of this, further seismic exploration is certainly the wrong signal at this time.”
Turkey’s move “further burdens its relationship with the EU,” Burger said, and called on both sides “to resolve all open questions through negotiations and to begin a bilateral dialogue between Athens and Ankara as planned.”
NATO allies and neighbors Greece and Turkey have been at odds for decades over a wide variety of issues and have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, including once over drilling exploration rights. Recent discoveries of natural gas and drilling plans across the east Mediterranean have led to a spike in tension.
Mitsotakis spoke Monday with European Council President Charles Michel and was to speak later in the day with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
In a television interview late Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey and Greece had been holding talks in Berlin for 2½ months and were on the verge of issuing a joint statement when the Greek-Egyptian agreement emerged.
“The moment the agreement with Egypt was announced, we received a clear instruction from our president: ‘You are halting the talks. Inform the Germans and the Greeks, we are not pressing ahead with the negotiations,’” Kalin told CNN-Turk television.
“This is another move to keep Turkey out of the Eastern Mediterranean and to restrict it to the Gulf of Antalya,” Kalin said.
Kalin said Turkey is in favor of resolving the dispute through dialogue.
“But it is the Greek side that disrupted the agreement and broke the trust,” he said.


Abbas poll decree lifts hopes of Palestinian unity

Abbas poll decree lifts hopes of Palestinian unity
Updated 50 min 24 sec ago

Abbas poll decree lifts hopes of Palestinian unity

Abbas poll decree lifts hopes of Palestinian unity
  • First elections in 15 years “will usher in badly needed democracy”
  • The PA will hold legislative elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31

AMMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s announcement of the first parliamentary and presidential elections in 15 years has raised hopes of an end to longstanding divisions, but skeptics doubt it will bring about serious change.
According to decrees issued by the presidential office on Friday, the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, will hold legislative elections on May 22 and a presidential vote on July 31.
Hanna Naser, head of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission, told a packed press conference a day earlier that the decrees will usher in a badly needed democratic process.
Naser said the elections will be transparent and will deliver a functioning legislative council, adding: “After 15 years without a legislative body, it is important to have accountability through a council elected by the people.”
Jibril Rajoub, secretary of the Fatah movement and a key force behind the election deal, said on Palestine TV that the decrees are a major breakthrough and reflect a Palestinian commitment to democratic principles.
Rajoub said that the elections commission will be responsible for all aspects of the poll, and that a meeting of all Palestinian factions next week in Cairo will help resolve any remaining issues.
Hussein Sheikh, minister of civil affairs and member of the Fatah Central Committee, tweeted that the presidential decrees are “an important step to strengthen democracy and partnership in a unified political regime that ensures the end of the split and will create a unified vision for a cooperative effort aimed at ending the occupation and accomplishing freedom and liberty for our people.”
Hamas welcomed the decrees, which include a commitment by all participants that the PLO represents Palestinians, and is responsible for foreign affairs and negotiations.
The decrees stipulate elections for a 132-member legislative council that will include Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza on a full proportional basis.
Presidential elections will follow in July and the Palestine National Council will hold elections wherever possible for candidates in different locations. All lists must have a woman as the third and fourth candidates on the list, with at least 26 percent of the next council to be female.
However, Ghassan Khatib, a lecturer at Bir Zeit University and a former minister, told Arab News that while he strongly supports the elections, he is worried about the quality of the poll.
“I am concerned that the elections will reflect the wishes of the political elite since the lists will be national and will be made up by political leaders who might not give enough attention to local communities and their needs,” he said.
Khatib, who founded the Jerusalem Center for Communication Studies, said that polls show Fatah could win the coming elections if it can present a unified list.
Hani Masri, director of the Masarat think tank, said that holding elections before national reconciliation is complete is a “formula for trouble.”
“Issuing presidential decrees for elections before reconciliation is doing things in reverse order,” he said. “To have elections, the land mines must be removed. If we don’t address some of these problems, we are inviting trouble,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
One suggestion to overcome this issue has been that the two main parties, Fatah and Hamas, agree on a joint list and a single nominee for president.
Marwan Muasher, vice president of Carnegie Endowment for International Studies, told Arab News that national unity is a necessary first step.
“National elections serve to renew Palestinian legitimacy, which has been significantly affected,” he said.
Palestinians are also unsure if Israel will allow East Jerusalem residents to take part in the elections. Under the Oslo accords, Jerusalem residents can vote at local post offices.