By Muhammet Ikbal Arslan, Tevfik Durul, and Iclal Turan
LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus / ATHENS / ANKARA (AA) – Turkey’s decision to announce new exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean raised alarms in Greece Monday as Athens responded with its own notice and by placing its navy on alert.
Following Turkey’s Navtex (navigational telex) on exploration, the Greek Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging Turkey to end its activities south of the Aegean island of Meis (Kastellorizo), and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis convened the government's national security council.
Mitsotakis also had a phone call with European Council President Charles Michel to discuss the latest developments in the region as well as last week’s controversial Greek-Egyptian maritime border deal, according to a Prime Ministry statement.
Mitsotakis is also due to speak Monday afternoon with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg .
Meanwhile, citing military sources, some Greek media outlets reported that the Greek army is on high alert and canceled leave for soldiers.
– Greek Cypriot administration huddles over news
On Monday Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides held a phone call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri to discuss the latest developments.
Christodoulides also spoke with his Greek counterpart about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Giving the news extensive coverage, Greek Cypriot media reported that the latest move might raise tensions between Greece and Turkey.
The media also reported Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Aug. 7 remarks accusing Greece of failing to fulfill its promises and announcing that Turkey will resume energy research in the region.
As part of the country's hydrocarbon exploration activities, Turkey announced via Navtex the drillship MTA Oruc Reis' new seismic research activity in the Eastern Mediterranean starting Aug. 10.
"Our MTA Oruc Reis seismic research vessel reached the operation area after departing Antalya [in coastal Turkey] for its new mission in the Mediterranean. 83 million Turkish people support you, Oruc Reis," Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez wrote on Twitter Monday.
The Oruc Reis, along with the ships Ataman and Cengiz Han, will continue seismic activities in the Eastern Mediterranean until Aug. 23.
Last month, after Athens objected to Ankara's seismic survey in an area south of the island of Meis, or Kastellorizo, German diplomatic efforts helped defuse tension between Turkey and Greece.
But Greece’s controversial move last week to sign a maritime delimitation agreement with Egypt, which Turkey says violates its continental shelf and maritime rights, has further sparked tension between the two neighbors.
Ankara accuses Greece of pursuing maximalist policies in the Eastern Mediterranean and underlines that its maritime claims violate Turkey’s sovereign rights.
Turkey has long contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area.