The Turkish drilling ship, Oruc Reis, has returned to shore to ease tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said yesterday, stressing that the move does not mean Ankara is giving up its rights to the area.
The Oruc Reis research ship returned to an area near the southern Turkish port of Antalya for the first time in more than a month.
Akar played down the significance of the move, saying the ship had returned as part of scheduled plans and insisted it did not mean Ankara was “giving up our rights there”.
“There will be planned movements backwards and forwards,” Akar told state news agency Anadolu in Antalya yesterday.
Greece hailed the move as a “positive sign”.
“This is a positive signal. We will see how this develops to make a proper assessment,″ Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told the TV channel Skai.
Turkey has been carrying out exploration and drilling activities within the country’s maritime borders in the Eastern Mediterranean since last year.
The Greek government and the Greek Cypriot administration oppose its activity and have threatened to arrest the ships’ crews. The Greeks have enlisted EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s activities.
Ankara has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the area, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also has rights to the resources according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
In 1974, following a coup against Greece’s annexation of Cyprus, Turkey intervened as a guarantor power.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded in 1983.