Turkey has sent its fourth drilling ship to the eastern Mediterranean waters to participate in the exploration for natural gas and oil within the Cypriot maritime economic zones, defying European and international warnings.
The Ministry of Defense published two pictures of seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis, accompanied by two frigates from the Turkish navy.
The pictures showed the vessel sailing from Istanbul to Mersin shores to join the Fatih and Yavuz drilling ships, which are accompanied by a third ship for logistical support.
Along with the two frigates, the new ship is accompanied by warships of the Turkish Naval Command.
The country announced in August 7 that it will send a new vessel to the region to join the two previously sent ships amid objections from the European Union, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, the United States and Israel against its exploration within the Cypriot’s exclusive maritime economic zones.
In a tweet, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said the seismic research vessel Oruc Reis would be sent to the Mediterranean after completing its current activities in the Marmara Sea.
Turkey rejects agreements the internationally recognized Cypriot government has reached with other Mediterranean states, such as Egypt and Greece, on maritime economic zones.
Sending Fatih and Yavuz, as well as an exploration vessel, to operate in waters off the divided island has prompted accusations from Greece that Turkey is undermining security in the region.
EU member Cyprus and Turkey have argued for years over the right to fossil fuels in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara says Turkish Cypriots are entitled to a share of the resources.
Turkey’s operations in the region have drawn criticism from its Western allies, including the European Union and the United States.
“We support a peaceful, stable region and we discourage provocative actions by any players,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon said when asked about Turkey’s moves in the region.
EU foreign ministers last month suspended negotiations on a comprehensive air transport agreement and decided not to hold further EU-Turkey high-level dialogue for the time being.
Speaking to Turkish ambassadors in Ankara last Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would continue to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
“We cannot remain indifferent to the attempts at theft and sabotage that are being carried out under the name of drilling,” he said.