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Turkish vessel begins energy resource survey in east Mediterranean: minister

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A Turkish seismic research vessel has begun surveying for energy resources in contested areas of the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey’s energy minister said on Wednesday, amid an escalation of tensions between rivals Greece and Turkey over oil and gas exploration rights, The Associated Press reported.

Turkey’s seismic surveying ship, the Oruç Reis, was “taking the x-ray of our seas,” Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez said on Twitter. He said the vessel had also lowered 1,750 kilometers (1,087 miles) of seismic cable into the Mediterranean.

Turkey dispatched the Oruç Reis and two support vessels to undertake seismic research for energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean in an area Greece says is on its continental shelf. The move reignited tensions between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, both of which have warships shadowing the Turkish research vessel.

Greece has called on Turkey to withdraw vessels from the area. Turkey said Tuesday it would not back away from its search activities, adding that it plans to issue new exploration licenses for the area despite an escalating dispute with Greece over drilling rights.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday in Vienna, his ministry said Wednesday. Talks are to focus on Turkey’s actions and developments in the eastern Mediterranean.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted on Wednesday that he was calling an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council meeting for Friday to discuss the situation in the eastern Mediterranean as well as the presidential elections in Belarus and developments in Lebanon after a massive deadly explosion there.

Greece had called for the emergency meeting over what it termed the “growing Turkish provocation and delinquency,” and Dendias would be participating via video link from Vienna.

Turkey announced that the Oruç Reis would be operating in the Mediterranean Sea between Cyprus and Greece until Aug. 23. The vessel arrived in the area Monday morning, escorted by Turkish warships. Greek warships were in the area monitoring the Oruç Reis, and the military was on alert, officials said.

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