Brain Booster for UPSC & State PCS Examination (Topic: Turkey-Greece Stand-off)

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Topic: Turkey-Greece Stand-off

Turkey-Greece Stand-off

Why in News?

  • Turkey and Greece have competing ambitions over gas reserves and they disagree profoundly over who has rights to key areas of the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • The two neighbours have seen frequent flare-ups, but this latest spat over gas reserves and maritime rights has prompted fears that tensions could escalate further.

Competing for Energy

  • Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to areas of gas-rich waters in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece’s position is that each of its islands—and there are thousands of them—is entitled to its own continental shelf with exclusive drilling rights. The European Union (EU) has stood firmly behind Greece and last July sanctioned Turkey for carrying out seismic surveys off the north Cypriot coast. It has repeatedly warned Turkey against carrying out further exploration.
  • Greece has vowed to defend its sovereignty, and the EU, of which Greece is a member, has appealed for dialogue.
  • But Turkey said that is an unfair interpretation of international law that unjustly encroaches on its own exclusive economic zone. In recent months, Turkey and Greece have each sought to bolster their territorial claims by drawing up exclusive maritime economic zones with Libya and Egypt, respectively.

Flare-up Incidents

  • In July, Turkey put out a naval alert - known as a Navtex - that it was sending its Oruc Reis research ship to carry out a drilling survey in waters close to the Greek island of Kastellorizo, a short distance from the coast of south-west Turkey.
  • Both countries announced military exercises in sections of a broad area between Crete and Cyprus, where the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis is carrying out seismic research escorted by Turkish warships.
  • Greece says the vessel is over its own continental shelf, where it has exclusive rights on potential undersea gas and oil deposits, and has sent its own warships to shadow the Turkish flotilla.
  • Turkey is also prospecting for hydrocarbons in waters where Cyprus claims exclusive economic rights.

Declining Relations

  • The two countries have quarrelled over migrants crossing into Greece.
  • Greece was appalled when Turkey decided the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul, for centuries an Orthodox Christian cathedral, would be turned back into a mosque.
  • After German intervention, there was a commitment to dialogue and calm was apparently restored. But then in early August Greece signed a deal with Egypt to set up a maritime zone that infuriated Turkey. The talks were called off and the Oruc Reis left port on 10 August.
  • As Greek and Turkish naval ships shadowed the Oruc Reis, a Turkish frigate collided with a Greek ship and President Erdogan warned: "We will not leave unanswered the slightest attack.”

Complex Territories

  • Many Greek islands in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean are within sight of the Turkish coast, so issues of territorial waters are complex and the two countries have come to the brink of war in the past.
  • If Greece were to extend its territorial waters from six miles to the maximum of 12 allowed internationally, Turkey argues its sea routes would be severely affected.
  • But apart from territorial waters, there are exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in place, like that agreed between Turkey and Libya, but also like the Cypriot EEZ accords with Lebanon, Egypt and Israel.
  • And this latest row also involves continental shelves, which can stretch up to 200 miles from the shore