Turkish navy prepares for the worst

The Turkish Navy has been given the go ahead by the government to activate its recently amended rules of engagement in the eastern Mediterranean if necessary, because of increasing tensions between countries in that region, Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ reports.

This includes the standoff between Turkey, Greece, South Cyprus, Egypt and Israel over rights to explore and export hydrocarbons in that region.

“The Prime Ministry handed over the rules of engagement to the Chief of General Staff and the Chief of Staff handed them over to the Naval Forces Command. We will act in line with these rules of engagement in the event we face a situation over this issue,” Admiral Bülent Bostanoğlu, the naval forces commander, told reporters 9th November in Muğla as he participated in the Blue Whale-2014 naval exercise.

“Our naval forces elements will continue their mission of situational awareness in the region.”

Bostanoğlu’s statement came after a question on which rules of engagement the Turkish Navy would follow if Turkish vessels confront Greek or Israeli warships in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tension between Turkey and South Cyprus has escalated recently after the Greek Cypriot government issued licenses for oil and natural gas exploration in its claimed economic exclusive zones in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey strongly criticised the move, saying it was a clear breach of Turkey’s and Turkish Cypriots’ rights and sent a seismic exploration vessel to the region for its own drilling purposes and one warship to monitor foreign platform vessels being used for oil exploration.

“The Turkish Naval Forces is providing support and close protection to the Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Research Vessel. On the other hand, it continues to keep the drill ship hired by the Greek Cypriot administration under surveillance from nine kilometres’ distance. The order given to us for the moment is not to enter into this nine-kilometre area. That’s why no incident of harassment or disturbance has occurred,” he said.

However, the Turkish naval commander said the ongoing Blue Whale exercise had nothing to do with ongoing tension and that it was a biannual exercise whose preparations started two years ago. “The objective of the exercise is to improve cooperation with our allies and particularly to perform anti-submarine defence operations,” he said.

The tension between Turkey and South Cyprus has recently turned into a regional one after South Cyprus took advantage of the Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Egypt and Israel, which both have similar claims in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greek, Greek Cypriot and Egyptian leaders came together at a tripartite summit in Cairo where they discussed regional security and economic cooperation.

“Turkey’s provocative actions do not just compromise the peace talks, but also affect security in the eastern Mediterranean region,” Anastasiades said at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

“For the [Cyprus peace] negotiations to succeed, Turkey needs to show a positive intention and adopt a constructive stance through positive and effective steps in this direction,” he said.

Ankara issued a notice that a Turkish seismic vessel would carry out a survey until 30th December in the same area where the Italian-Korean energy consortium Eni-KOGAS is operating. Ankara has said that exploration of hydrocarbons offshore Cyprus should only take place after a solution to the decades-long Cyprus problem is reached.

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