There are serious concerns in Greek diplomatic circles following the official announcement in the official gazette of Turkey that areas in the Aegean Sea, which are in the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone, are given over to studies and drilling.
In practice, Turkish diplomacy has passed to the third stage of challenging the status quo in the Aegean Sea, by publishing maps in the Official Gazette marked out for drilling permits in areas bordering the Greek island of Kastelorizo and forming part of the Greek economic zone.
If you look at those areas of the map, it is clear that Ankara is trying to separate the Greek economic zone from those of Cyprus and Egypt.
The three stages of the Turkish expansion
The first stage of challenging the status quo in the Aegean Sea began in 1973 with the publication of a map with areas of study within the Greek continental shelf. Later, followed an operation with the research ship "People". The second phase began with a crisis in Greek-Turkish relations in 1996, caused by the dispute over the uninhabited Greek island of Imia. According to diplomatic observers, the third stage began on April 27, 2012, at the height of the pre-election campaign in Greece, on the eve of the Summit of NATO, a week before the second round of presidential elections in France and while Europe was shaken by the debt crisis of the European south countries.
A look at the six guidelines published on Friday, April 27 in the Official Gazette, is sufficient to be convinced that Turkey is trying to bring Greece before a fait accompli. Studies of hydrocarbons in the area between the islands of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kastelorizo, are alibis and no assumption that fields exist there. This is a purely diplomatic move to challenge the right of Athens on this part of the economic zone.
In practice this way Ankara meets the intent of "levelling" the Cypriot and Israeli interests, which from geographical point of view start east of Crete and reach south of the island. The Israeli companies in question, a few weeks ago showed great interest in obtaining a permit for exploration and drilling in the sea south of Crete, at a public auction announced by the Greek government.
Permits provided by the Turkish government for the exploitation of hydrocarbons now belong to the state joint stock company. There are about six separate decrees, which relate to areas in the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.
Maps accompany each decree with the coordinates of the area intended for research, drilling and exploitation of hydrocarbons.
The answer of the Greek state was immediate. In a communication Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras stresses that "the publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Turkey on a number of decisions taken by the Turkish Council of Ministers on 16 March 2012, for the authorization to carry out studies and drillings in areas including areas south of the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kastelorizo, is contrary to the laws of maritime law and in no way can they affect the right of property of Greece, based on international law."
"Our position on this issue is known, we have repeatedly stated it to the Turkish side. According to relevant provisions of the international convention on maritime law, some of the areas mentioned in these decisions include parts of the Greek continental shelf. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will take all necessary actions to protect and preserve the sovereignty of Greece", the statement of the Greek Foreign Ministry says, which will send a protest note to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
Several days earlier, the General Staff Chief of National Defence, General Michael Kostarakos visited the uninhabited island of Zourafa, in order to inspect the lighthouse built there, which was damaged after a severe storm a few weeks ago. Zourafa Island, located above the oil field, is considered a key point in determining the Greek Aegean shelf, so the visit of the Greek General there is being interpreted as a message to Ankara.
Earlier, Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos visiting two other uninhabited islands in the region - Farmakonisi and Agathonisi and sources from the ministry mentioned that the Office is preparing for a "hot summer".