The Turkish navy said on Sunday that an agreement was reached for talks after the Oruch Rees exploration vessel was heading back towards the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean waters between the Greek islands Crete and Cyprus.
In a tightly worded statement, the State Department said that the US has quashed Turkey’s decision, saying that Greece claims “jurisdiction” over areas where the ship is planned to operate from 22 October.
“We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory negotiations with Greece,” State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said.
“Turkey’s declaration unilaterally increases tensions in the region and deliberately complicates the resumption of important exploratory negotiations between our NATO ally Greece and Turkey,” she said.
“Force, intimidation, intimidation and military activity will not resolve tensions in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.”
Turkey had last sent ships supported by warships, dangerous to both Greece and Cyprus, which have partially occupied Ankara.
Greece responded to military exercises but tensions subsided when both Ankara and Athens agreed to speak through the crisis.
– Greece to protest –
Greece said there could be no diplomatic solution until Tuesday when the ship was withdrawn.
“Greece will not sit at the table for exploratory talks while Oruk Rees and the escorting warships are out,” Greece’s Minister of State George Gerapatitis told Parapolitica Radio.
He said that Athens would “vigorously” raise the dispute at a European Council meeting starting on Thursday.
Turkey paid attention to the American statement, noting that Washington does not recognize the so-called Seville map by Spanish scholars that have been cited by Greece for its maritime claims.
“It is thus a serious contradiction for the US to criticize the Oruis Reissim seismic survey activities carried out within Turkey’s continental shelf,” a State Department statement said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month that the return of the ship was to give diplomacy a chance.
But Turkish officials also insisted that the ship was only undergoing planned maintenance.
– Germany took steps –
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who was visiting Cyprus before going to Greece, said Turkey should “end the cycle of detention and provocation.”
Mao told reporters in Nicosia, “It is now for Turkey to create those conditions and the climate so that there is a possibility of conducting exploratory talks without further challenges.”
“And the moment this ship launches a new search for hydrocarbons in disputed maritime areas, it will indeed be a serious blow to de-escalation efforts,” he said.
While France has supported Greece in a deadlock with Turkey, Germany had in August upset many Greeks as a less significant response by Europe’s largest economic power.
Erdogan has cordial relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has worked with Turkey both on the flow of Syrian and other refugees to Europe and on the crisis in Libya.
Cyprus has pressured Turkey to take stern action, until the EU was leveraged by unrelated sanctions on Belarus over its ban on recent pro-democracy protests.
Maas, meeting with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodolides, said: “What we are most interested in is not the adoption of sanctions. How it is dealt with illegal actions, which in any circumstances the EU disputes I do not have. ”
Erdogan has also cultivated close ties with US President Donald Trump, although Washington’s relationship with Greece is growing as Athens warmed relations with its US ally Israel.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has been newly vocal on several fronts and has encouraged Azerbaijan’s campaign for control over the Nagorno-Karbakh region from Azerbaijan.
burs-SCT / ft