The Turkish research vessel Oruç Reis has returned to home waters following oil and gas exploration in disputed parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, according to a BBC report Monday.
While Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the move does not mean that Turkey is giving up its rights to disputed waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described the move as a positive first step. Akar told the Anadolu state news agency that Ankara intends to continue to move in and out of the disputed waters.
When Turkey sent the Oruc Reis to explore the disputed waters in August, Greece warned that it amounted to a new escalation in tensions in the area, claiming that it exposed Turkey’s destabilising role.
Meanwhile, the EU threatened Turkey with sanctions. Mitsotakis indicated that Greece would strengthen its Armed Forces by purchasing French Rafale fighters as well as frigates and navy helicopters.
President Emmanuel Macron, declaring that France would be keeping an eye on the situation, urged Turkey to stop its controversial exploratory activities, proceeded to deploy a naval frigate and two Rafale fighters to the area.
Earlier this month, some 200 people protested in Istanbul, prompted by the French weekly Charlie Hebdo’s recent reprint of the Prophet Mohammed cartoons that led to the 2015 lethal jihadist attack and the killing of 12 people. The reprint was timed to draw attention to the opening of trial proceedings against alleged accomplices of those responsible for the attack.
Islamists protestors held placards warning the publisher and President Macron that they would pay a heavy price for the perceived blasphemy. Macron defended Charlie Hebdo, noting that in France freedom of expression is a right. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry criticized the republication as offensive, saying it showed disrespect for the tenets of Islam.
Kudus TV editor-in-chief Nureddin Şirin asserted that the French President would pay a very heavy price for his arrogance over the Eastern Mediterranean and for his defence of blasphemy. According to Islamic law, depictions of the prophet are not allowed.