Turkey’s first deep-sea drilling ship, flanked by Turkish struggle vessels, set sail Tuesday searching for pure gasoline and oil in contested waters of the Mediterranean, a launch liable to exacerbate longstanding tensions with Greece.

The Fatih, named after the conqueror of Constantinople, or modern-day Istanbul, will function some 60 nautical miles off the Turkish coast in or across the disputed space. The Eastern Mediterranean has turn out to be a gasoline sizzling spot with massive finds for Cyprus, Israel and Egypt lately.

Turkey’s power exploration plans have already triggered a showdown between the NATO allies’ warships this month. The begin of exploration additionally comes as Cyprus pushes to search out gasoline within the area, one thing that Turkey — which has occupied the island’s northern third since 1974 — vehemently opposes with out an settlement on sharing the proceeds of any finds.

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“I don’t assume both camp is out to search for direct battle,” stated James Ker-Lindsay, a senior visiting fellow on the London School of Economics. At the identical time, he stated, there’s an ever-present danger of a conflict. “These could be very, very tense conditions and issues can get out of hand fully unexpectedly in a short time,” he stated.

Military motion

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stated a Greek warship got here dangerously near a Turkish seismic survey ship, the Barbaros, on Oct. 18, however Turkey gained’t let that occur once more. Akar additionally threatened army motion if Greece acts on plans to increase its territorial waters within the Aegean.

“We’re decided to guard the rights of the Turkish Republic in addition to the Northern Turkish Cypriot Republic with none concessions,” he stated. Turkey is the one nation to acknowledge the so-called Northern Turkish Cypriot Republic.

Turkey’s navy was escorting each the Fatih and the Barbaros, named after the legendary Ottoman-era naval commander Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, and can reply to any harassment, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez stated.

“We don’t have our eyes on anybody’s sources,” Donmez stated. “Our solely intention is to place into the service of our individuals the riches in each inch beneath our sovereignty.”

Turkey and Greece have come to the brink of struggle thrice since Turkey invaded Cyprus to thwart a coup designed to unite the island with Greece. Turkey doesn’t acknowledge Cyprus as a sovereign nation and opposes the Greek Cypriot seek for mineral deposits.

Earlier this 12 months, Turkey blocked a rig from reaching an space southeast of Cyprus the place Italian firm Eni SpA was scheduled to drill, and this month, it deemed its seismic analysis exercise within the contested waters to be according to worldwide regulation.

Territorial waters

Turkey’s offshore exercise within the Mediterranean follows friction with Greece over its plan to increase its maritime border, beginning with its western flank within the Ionian Sea.

Greece doesn’t have plans to double its territorial waters within the Aegean to 12 nautical miles from shore for the time being, a Greek authorities official stated on situation of anonymity. But former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias triggered “severe concern for Turkey,” an aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated, when in an Oct. 20 handoff ceremony he made reference to plans to develop Greece’s territorial waters across the islands of Crete within the south, and Evia to the north, in accordance with state-run Athens News Agency.

The undersea boundary within the Aegean has been among the many most contentious points in Greek-Turkish relations, with every nation making an attempt to mark out the place it could possibly exploit seabed oil and mineral deposits. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Greece final week that Turkey’s parliament approved army motion in 1995 if it extends its territorial waters within the Aegean.

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