Turkey’s Oruç Reis exploration vessel was scheduled to return from eastern Mediterranean waters today, but authorities have extended the ship’s exploration activities until October 27.
Despite the vessel’s withdrawal from disputed waters ahead of an EU summit discussing sanctions on Turkey in early October, Ankara has retracted and resumed drillings in mid-October.
In the most recent round of explorations, the Turkish vessel has gotten particularly close to Kastellorizo—a tiny Greek island near the Turkish coast with 500 inhabitants. Based on a UN convention that Turkey never ratified, the island has an Exclusive Economic Zone four times its size that directly cuts through territories claimed by Turkey—a situation that will likely put it at the forefront of Turkish-Greek tensions in the near future.
Recently, Turkey’s moves in the eastern Mediterranean have been driven largely by a maximalist agenda epitomised by Admiral Cihat Yaycı’s “Blue Homeland” doctrine, which has reshaped Turkey’s perception of its maritime borders as an inalienable right equal to that of its land borders. Despite Yaycı’s unexpected demotion (and later resignation) in May, he evidently continues to influence Ankara’s eastern Mediterranean policy. Seemingly, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is hesitant to soften his attitude for fear of tarnishing his reputation as the leader of a sovereign Turkey that doesn’t submit to foreign powers.
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Esra is an analyst on the Current Developments division and a member of The Daily Brief’s research team. She specialises in political and security issues with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa.