Turkey's two main Western allies, the US and Germany, have denounced the Ankara administration for resuming controversial exploration in the East Mediterranean, saying a negotiated settlement with traditional foe Greece is the way forward for stability in the region.
Turkey on 11 October sent back the seismic vessel Oruc Reis to waters disputed with Greece, triggering renewed tensions after a short pause in activities.
The US accused Turkey of unilaterally stoking tensions and “deliberately” complicating the resumption of talks with Greece.
“The United States deplores Turkey’s October 11 announcement of renewed Turkish survey activity in areas over which Greece asserts jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said, while urging Ankara to cease its survey activities.
“Coercion, threats, intimidation, and military activity will not resolve tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece,” she said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also warned Turkey that it should refrain from provocation in the East Mediterranean.
"Ankara must end the interplay between detente and provocation if the government is interested in talks, as it has repeatedly affirmed," Maas said in Berlin before embarking on a trip to Cyprus and Greece.
"We appeal to Turkey to refrain from closing the dialogue window that has just opened with Greece through unilateral measures.’’
The Oruc Reis will conduct seismic activities until 22 October, lowering expectations of a negotiated settlement to overlapping maritime claims any time soon. It is being deployed south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, escorted by two other Turkish naval vessels.
Tensions between Turkey and Greece in August heightened after the vessel entered disputed waters, flanked by naval frigates.
The Oruc Reis last month sailed back to Turkish shores in what was seen as a potential end to the political crisis.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the time said the return of the seismic vessel was to give diplomacy a chance.
However, other Turkish officials kept their options open, saying the vessel had been recalled for planned maintenance and would return to the East Mediterranean.
The Turkish and Greek foreign ministers last week met on the sidelines of a security forum in the Slovakian capital Bratislava in the highest-level talks since the tensions began.
Earlier this month, the European Union threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it continued with drilling in waters contested with Greece and Cyprus.