The Turkish Naval Forces Command is providing full protection to Turkish drilling vessels operating in the Eastern Mediterranean, the country’s National Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday.
On Twitter, the ministry shared video footage shot by a UAV showing a Turkish drilling vessel escorted by a corvette, assault boat, and Bayraktar TV-2 UAV.
The ministry stated that country’s drill ships are provided full protection both on the surface and under water, saying that protective UAVs, planes, helicopters, corvettes, frigates, and submarines are ready to engage in hostilities if necessary at any time.
The video’s release comes against a backdrop of Turkey asserting its own rights and the rights of Turkish Cyprus to search for natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of European intransigence and challenges, including threats to arrest the crews of Turkish drill ships.
- Dispute in Eastern Mediterranean
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area.
Since this spring, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels -- the Fatih and the Yavuz -- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the TRNC to the resources of the region.
Turkey’s first seismic vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa, bought from Norway in 2013, has been conducting exploration in the Mediterranean since April 2017.
Athens and Greek Cypriots have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and enlisting EU leaders to join their criticism. Turkey, for its part, said it would take "give the necessary response" if they dared such a move.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries -- Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. -- ended in 2017 in Switzerland.
By Ali Murat Alhas