Turkish survey ship Cesme sailing in the Aegean Sea

23 February 2021
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The Turkish research ship “Cesme” has been sailing in the sea area in the Central Aegean, where it was announced that hydrographic surveys will be carried out until March 2nd.

As of 10:30 on Monday morning, the vessel has completed 12 hours of continuous cruising within the search area defined by the illegal Navtex 0122/21 issued by the Izmir (Smyrna) coastal station. According to protothema.gr, the Turkish ship is located in the northern part of the research area, which is depicted on the map below.

Cesme is moving between the island of Lemnos and Agios Efstratios. Its course is within international waters, but in an area where the only competent authority for licensing sea research is the Greek government. Irregularly and without any kind of licensing from Athens, the Turkish sea vessel is inside the area where the hydrographic surveys have been announced.

There are no warships near the Cesme, neither from the Greek Navy nor from the Turkish fleet. A Greek Navy vessel has been assigned the mission to discreetly monitor the Cesme.

The Turkish ship is cruising at a low speed of about 5-6 knots. Winds of about five Beaufort are blowing in the area. There is no confirmation from the Greek Ministries of National Defence and Foreign Affairs whether the ship is actually carrying out hydrographic research and what kind of specific work it is engaged in.

Reliable sources say that the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responding to the Greek official remonstration for the hydrographic actions of “Cesme”, simply replied that no surveys are planned on the continental shelf. But can these assurances be considered credible, given the Turkish behaviour in recent months? The question is what might trigger the start of the Turkish ship’s hydrographic works? Will Turkey use the scheduled visit of the Greek Minister of National Defence and the head of Hellenic National Defence General Staff to Abu Dhabi, where the frigate “Hydra” has already sailed on the occasion of the “IDEX” exhibition, as a pretext of a “provocative act” to commence research in the central Aegean?

Will Ankara be content to record its claim for jurisdiction east of the 25th meridian passing through the center of the Aegean? The research area that the Turks warned that the “Cesme” would move stretches just 7 miles from Lemnos and Agios Efstratios and ends about 10 miles east of Skyros. With this method, Ankara indirectly reiterates that it does not recognise the right of Greece to a coastal zone of 12 nautical miles around the islands, as provided for in the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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