ANKARA: Turkey said on Monday that an energy search vessel that had been towed from the waters claimed by Greece was only undergoing routine maintenance and would return soon.
Seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis has been troubling the strategic eastern Mediterranean region since Turkey sent it along with a small naval flotilla into the disputed seas on August 10th.
Greece responded by organizing naval exercises with France and several EU allies next to those Turkey was holding last month.
The escalating dispute has seen Germany try to mediate a solution and consultations with the NATO host aimed at preventing the two members of the alliance from accidentally going to war as they did for some disputed islands in 1996.
Ankara confirmed on Sunday that the ship had withdrawn from the disputed waters and returned to the Turkish coast.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed it as a positive first step.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it would be a mistake for Greece to interpret Oruc Reiss’s withdrawal as a step back from Ankara.
This is routine maintenance and replenishment (crew) work, Cavusoglu said in a television interview.
Greece can perceive it as a step backwards in our determination, he said. The insecurities of a small country are suffering.
The Turkish Ministry of Energy said in a separate statement that after undergoing examination and care, the ship will continue its seismic search and exploration activities.
Ankara is disappointed that Greece is using its far eastern islands to seek control of waters off the Turkish coast.
The European Union has fully supported Athens and has threatened to impose economic sanctions on Turkey, which will be adopted at a summit scheduled for September 24-25.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Cyprus on Sunday that Washington was also very concerned about Turkish exploration in areas over which Greece and Cyprus claim jurisdiction.
Turkey directs most of its rage at the so-called Seville map that Greece uses to justify its claims.
The map was commissioned by the Spanish University of Seville on behalf of the European Union in the early 2000s.
He suggests giving full economic zones to Greece small islands in the Aegean and Mediterranean in the East Sea.
Turkey says the map violates its sovereignty and contradicts past examples of countries that have not been given full economic zones to remote islands.
Cavusoglu on Monday called the map the cause of all the tension.
Both sides can enter into direct negotiations if (Greece) relinquishes its maximalist demands. He can give up the map of Seville, Cavusoglu said.
But there is no goodwill in Greece. We have not seen it yet.
Now read: Turkey does not expect EU sanctions on the eastern Mediterranean dispute
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