By Sarp Ozer
ANKARA (AA) – The Turkish Navy provided security cover to the Oruc Reis research vessel during its exploration missions in the Eastern Mediterranean for 82 days, the Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
The ship was escorted by naval vessels and aircraft on its missions from Aug. 8 to Sept. 12 and Oct. 11 to Nov. 29, the ministry said in a statement.
Warships and submarines sailed alongside the Oruc Reis in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean seas for 45,000 hours, it said.
Maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters logged in 1,170 hours during the security mission, along with 3,600 hours of flights by unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the statement.
Turkey’s land and air forces, as well as the coast guard, also supported the escort and protection mission, the ministry said.
The Oruc Reis, which returned to Antalya port this past Monday, is one of several drill ships Turkey has sent to explore for energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean in recent months, asserting its own rights in the region, as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Turkey resumed energy exploration in the region in August, after Greece and Egypt signed a controversial maritime delimitation deal and spurned Ankara’s goodwill gesture of halting its research missions.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
Ankara has said that energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the TRNC and the Greek Cypriot administration of southern Cyprus.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue, and negotiation.
* Writing by Seda Sevencan