Turkey vows to press ahead with energy search amid tensions

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In this taken Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, Turkey's research vessel, Oruc Reis, center, is surrounded by Turkish navy vessels as it was heading in the west of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey. Tension remains high between Greece and Turkey, whose warships are in the eastern Mediterranean where Turkey has sent a research vessel to carry out seismic research for energy resources in an area Greece says is on its continental shelf. (IHA via AP)

ATHENS – Turkey vowed Tuesday to press ahead with searching for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, saying it plans to issue new exploration licenses for the area despite an escalating dispute with Greece over drilling rights.

Greece's foreign minister, meanwhile, called for an emergency meeting of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council “on the subject of the growing Turkish provocation and delinquency.”

Tension has increased between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, both of which have warships shadowing a Turkish research vessel that was sent to carry out seismic research for energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean in an area Greece says is on its continental shelf.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias called on Turkey “to immediately withdraw from the Greek continental shelf,” saying that “we make clear that Greece will defend its sovereignty and its sovereign rights.”

Dendias said he had called for the EU's foreign ministers to meet “at a time when there is a clear Turkish threat to peace and security in the eastern Mediterranean, Greece and Cyprus.”

Earlier Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey planned to conduct search operations “on the western edges” of Turkey’s continental shelf. He said the work would be done on behalf of both Turkey and Turks in ethnically divided Cyprus, which also has objected to Ankara's exploration activities.

“We are fully determined to continue our seismic research and drilling efforts,” Cavusoglu said during a joint news conference with his visiting Azerbaijani counterpart. “We will defend to the end the rights of Turkey and of Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean and in Cyprus, and we will make no concessions.”

The Turkish government announced on Monday that its research vessel Oruc Reis and two support vessels would be operating in the Mediterranean Sea between Cyprus and Greece until Aug. 23. The vessel arrived in the area Monday morning, escorted by Turkish warships.