Using NAVTEX (navigational telex), Turkey informed Greece of its seismic research activity in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey issued a NAVTEX (Navigational Telex) on Tuesday as part of its seismic research into potential hydrocarbon exploration deposits within the Eastern Mediterranean.

The vessel Oruc Reis began exploring an area of the Eastern Mediterranean within Turkey’s continental shelf on July 21.

NAVTEX is a maritime communications system that allows ships to inform other vessels about their presence in an area, as well as other information. 

It can also serve as a warning to other vessels to steer clear of an area due to the sensitivity of the work being carried out and a signal of a country's sovereign exploration rights.

Greece has objected to the issuance of the NAVTEX on the grounds that it claims it falls within its maritime boundaries.

Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hami Aksoy said on Wednesday that the maritime area in question is located entirely within the Turkish continental shelf.

The Greek claim, which Turkish authorities consider ‘maximalist’, is based on remote rocks and small islands which do not grant exploration rights under international law.

The area in question was declared by the United Nations to fall within the license blocks granted to the Turkish Government in 2012.

The statement of Turkish MFA wrote: “Greece bases this claim on the presence of remote islands far from its own mainland, most notably Kastellorizo(Meis).”

“This maximalist continental shelf claim of Greece is contrary to international law, jurisprudence and court decisions,” it added.

Where is the island of Kastellorizo (Meis)?

Kastellorizo or Meis Island, a small islet of roughly 10 square kilometres, is located only 2 kilometres away from the south coast of Turkey and roughly 580 kilometres from the Greek mainland. 

The island is located in the area where there are lots of islets that are disputed between Turkey and Greece and is part of the Rhodes regional unit. 

Turkey rejects the idea that a tiny islet of this size can usurp the maritime exploration rights of a land mass tens of thousands of times bigger. 

What international law says about the issue

Hakan Karan, a professor at Ankara University’s Faculty of Law, said the distance of islands to the mainland and their closeness to other countries is the most important consideration when determining exploration rights.

He argued that remote islands far away from a country’s mainland and located close to other countries could not be used, under international law, to establish maritime boundaries.

Meis island was one such example of a remote and geographically tiny land mass being used to declare an ostensible maritime frontier.

If such claims were to stand, Turkey would effectively blocked out of the Mediterranean by tiny and sparsely populated rocks.

"An island with less than 12 square kilometers of surface, located two kilometers from Turkey and 580km away from Greece cannot be granted continental shelf or EEZ," he said.

He pointed to a recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that determined that the tiny Snake Island which belongs to Ukraine but is close to Romanian could not have any effect on the demarcation of maritime boundaries.

Source: TRT World