Cablegate: Turkey Will Handle Two Eastern Med Maritime


DE RUEHAK #1997/01 3231405
O 181405Z NOV 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 001997


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2018

B. ANKARA 1810


1. (C) Summary: Charge and Econ Counselor met November 17
with MFA Deputy Undersecretary Haydar Berk to discuss two
maritime incidents that occurred in the eastern Mediterranean
on November 14 and 15 in waters that Turkey claims as part of
its continental shelf (reftel B). The first started midday
November 14 southwest of Cyprus when a Turkish naval vessel
encountered two seismic ships chartered by a Norwegian
company. The MFA protested to the Norwegian Ambassador.
Berk said he later received a message that the ship "made a
mistake." Berk argued that the ROC was engaging in "sheer
provocation" by contracting
for seismic work in areas known to be disputed and that
Christofias was damaging the chances of success in current
Cyprus negotiations. The second incident began later
November 14 when the Greek Charge notified Turkey that the
GOG would not allow a Norwegian vessel chartered by Turkish
state oil company TPAO to conduct geophysical research in an
area claimed by both Greece and Turkey. On November 15, Berk
claimed that a Greek naval vessel approached within 50 meters
of the Norwegian vessel and threatened to sink it. Charge
urged the GOT to exercise utmost restraint and caution and
not to engage in any action that could be seen as aggressive
in responding to these maritime incidents. Berk responded
that the GOT intends to use only diplomacy to deal with both
incidents. End summary.

The Turkish - Cypriot Incident

2. (C) Berk said the first incident began around noon on
November 14, when a Turkish naval vessel returning from
UNIFIL chanced upon two Norwegian-flagged vessels conducting
oil exploration work in an area south and west of Cyprus, in
an area Turkey claims as part of its continental shelf (see
reftel B). Berk said there was no confrontation or threat
made by the Turkish vessel, which, he believed, had only
radioed to the ships to notify them that they were exploring
in Turkish waters.

3. (C) The vessels are owned by Seabird Exploration, a
Norwegian - Cypriot company, and flagged in Panama and Sierra
Leone. They were chartered by PGS, a Norwegian - US company
that the GOT had previously contacted when it was bidding on
GOC exploration contracts Berk said he called in the
Norwegian ambassador on November 14, and she said she would
notify the company of GOT concerns. Berk said he later
received a message that the ship "made a mistake and would be
more careful in the future." The Turkish naval vessel
continued on its voyage back to Turkey. (The GOT also
expressed concerns about PGS's seismic work to Ambassador
Wilson on November 14, see reftel A).

4. (C) Berk said he also contacted Turkish Republic of
Northern Cyprus president Talat about the incident. He said
that Talat called GOC President Christofias to express both
Turkish Cypriot and Turkish concern about the exploration,
but Christofias dismissed those concerns. The ships were
working in areas to the south of Cyprus where Turkey claims
an indirect interest on behalf of Turkish Cyriots, but had
also crossed over into waters southwest of Cyprus that Turkey
claims as part of its continental shelf. This seismic work
was "pure provocation" by the ROC, and did not contribute to
the Cyprus settlement process. Berk noted that under the
Annan Plan, all maritime claims were left to negotiation
after a settlement of the island's division, and that Turkey
continues to maintain this view.

The Greek - Turkish Incident

5. (C) the second incident began around 1800 on November 14,
when the Greek Charge notified MFA that the GOG would not
allow a Norwegian ship, the M/V Maelen Ostervold, chartered
by Turkish state oil company TPAO, to conduct geophysical
research work in waters claimed by both Greece and Turkey.
Berk said he called the Greek Charge on November 15, and
informed him that the GOT did not recognize the Greek claim
(apparently based on a continental shelf extending out from
the small Greek island of Meis just off
the coast of Turkey).

6. (C) Later on November 15, a Greek naval vessel, T-61
Polimetis, approached within 50 meters of the Norwegian
vessel and, according to Berk, threatened to sink it. The

vessel radioed a report, and the Turkish navy dispatched a
Turkish frigate, Getis, to protect the civilian ship. Berk
said the Greek
harassment of the Norwegian ship began at a point 35 miles
south of Kas on the Turkish coast, and continued to a point
95 miles south, despite the presence of the Turkish frigate.

7. (C) Berk said MFA took control of the incident to avoid
escalation and made "hundreds" of phone calls on November 15
and 16 to the Turkish General Staff, the Turkish Navy, the
Greek Embassy and the Turkish Embassy in Athens. MFA asked
the Turkish frigate to pull back from the Norwegian ship to
avoid a confrontation. It did so, to 3.5 nautical miles, but
reported that the Greek ship approached again. Berk asked
the Greek Charge November 15 to call the Greek ship back, and
told him that diplomatic channels were open to resolve the
dispute. The Greek MFA called in the Turkish Charge in
Athens on November 16 and told him that the GOG "did not want
problems" with Turkey, but Berk said despite this assurance,
the Greek warship continued to harass the Norwegian ship
until midnight on November 16.

Urging Restraint and Caution

8. (C) Charge urged that the GOT exercise great restraint and
caution in reacting to these sorts of maritime incidents, and
that it avoid any actions that could be seen as aggressive.
Berk said the GOT's emphasis on diplomacy was evident on
November 15-16, when MFA took control of the incident and
ordered the Turkish vessel to pull back despite continued
harassment of the civilian vessel by the Greek warship.

9. (C) Berk said the GOT was surprised by the Greek action,
noting that there have been disputes in the past in the
Aegean, but this is the first confrontation in the Eastern
Mediterranean. Despite the two incidents occurring in the
same weekend, Berk said the GOT did not believe them to be

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