By Merve Aydogan
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey's Foreign Ministry spokesman on Tuesday said the country is determined to "protect the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean".
In a statement, Hami Aksoy said Turkish Petroleum Corporation's recent application for a permit for additional oil exploration and drilling activities in the East Mediterranean is within the boundaries of UN's continental shelf for Turkey.
Underlining that Turkey "will resolutely continue to exercise its sovereign rights in this area", Aksoy said the country's "seismic research and drilling activities are carried out according to the previously determined program."
Aksoy's remarks came shortly after Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias claimed Turkey was deploying "illegal" means in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Moreover, Turkish Ambassador in Athens Burak Ozugergin said on Tuesday that Ankara's call for dialogue with Athens has gone unanswered.
According to diplomatic sources, Ozugergin attended a meeting at the Greek Foreign Ministry and said Turkey's position is known and transparent on various issues including hydrocarbon exploration and extraction.
Turkey has several times sought dialogue with Greece on these issues, but Athens failed to make any response, he added.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries – Turkey, Greece, and the UK – ended in 2017 in Switzerland.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area.
Since last year, Ankara has sent drilling vessels to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the TRNC to the resources of the region.
Athens and Greek Cypriots have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and enlisting EU leaders to join their criticism.