The Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis and the support vessels Ataman and Gengiz, which left the area of the Cypriot EEZ in the west of Cyprus, anchored in Antalya at 9.04 this morning. The illegal Turkish NAVTEX for Oruc Reis, which was issued on August 31st and expired on September 2nd – 12th, has not been renewed.
Turkish media, attributed the withdrawal of Oruc Reis “in the talks that began in NATO” and added that it had carried out “seismic surveys” over the past month.
Athens is watching Ankara’s movements, but today the focus is on Kastellorizo and the visit of the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who arrived shortly after 10.30 on the island to honour the anniversary of the island’s liberation in WWII.
The Greek Armed Forces have secured the island, given the concern that Ankara may try to take advantage of the presence of the President, in order to escalate the crisis that has been going on for a month and a half in Greek-Turkish relations. It is no coincidence that Kastellorizo is lately at the center of Turkish claims, both verbally and operationally. The Greek side is particularly concerned about the presence of a significant number of large surface units of the Turkish Navy, which move at a relatively short distance from the shores of the island. More specifically, according to information at a distance between 15 and 25 nautical miles off the coasts of the Greek island, there are about 6 warships are moving, among which are the frigates Kemal Reis, and Turgut Reis.
The Greek side, however, both in view of the President’s visit to Kastellorizo and the possibility that the Turks will escalate the tension further, has strengthened the forces of the guarding the area. There are already two Navy ships on the island, a FAC vessel and a gunboat, while men of the Hellenic Navy’s Underwater Demolition Command on-board high-speed boats patrol around it continuously. At the same time, the Ministry of Defence has given clear instructions to the competent officials in order to take all the necessary measures for the possibility that Turkish fighters will try to harass the helicopter that will transport Mrs. Sakelaropoulos to Kastellorizo.
The Turkish press, however, characterizes the visit of Mrs. Sakellaropoulou to Kastellorizo as a “provocation”.
It should be noted, though, that the Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar is visiting the port of Kas which is less than 2 km north of Kastellorizo in an attempt, apparently, to send an indirect message to the Greek President.