Turkey Extends East Mediterranean Research Vessel Mission Again

Istanbul, Nov 1 (AFP/APP): Turkey on Sunday extended once again a research ship mission in contested waters of the east Mediterranean, ignoring Greek warnings that such moves undercut efforts to resolve their dispute.

The Turkish navy said in a message on the international maritime alert system NAVTEX that the Oruç Reis vessel would stay in the area until November 14. It had previously said the ship would remain until November 4, Wednesday. The latest deployment comes as the two NATO allies have toned down some of their bellicose rhetoric in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake that hit both countries.

The Oruç Reis, escorted by military ships, has become the symbol of Ankara’s quest for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean, where recent discoveries have triggered huge interest and competition. Athens says Ankara is breaking international law by prospecting in Greek waters. Turkey in August sent the ship into the disputed zone, alarming both Cyprus and Greece, which carried out military drills in response.

Tensions subsided after Turkey withdrew the ship in mid-September for what it said was maintenance work and agreed to exploratory talks with Greece. But Ankara sent the ship back into the area on October 12, angering Greece which said there could be no talks until it is withdrawn.

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