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Turkey extends gas exploration in disputed Mediterranean waters | Greece



Turkish navy says Oruc Reis research vessel that was scheduled to end its work on Thursday will now remain at sea until October 27.

Turkey says it is extending a gas exploration mission in the disputed Eastern Mediterranean in a move likely to further escalate tensions in the region, defying warnings from Greece and the European Union.

The Oruc Reis research vessel was scheduled to end its work on Thursday, but will now remain at sea until October 27, the Turkish navy said in a NAVTEX maritime announcement.

Two other vessels, the Ataman and Cengiz Han, along with Oruc Reis, will also work in an area southeast of the Greek island of Rhodes, according to the announcement.

NATO members Turkey and Greece are at odds over conflicting claims to hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean and overlapping views on the extent of their continental shelves.

Tensions flared in August when Ankara sent Oruc Reis to waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus.

Ankara had withdrawn Oruc Reis last month to “allow for diplomacy” before an EU summit at which Cyprus sought sanctions against Turkey, but sent it back this month, prompting an angry rebuke from Greece, France and Germany.

After the summit, the bloc said it would punish Turkey if it continued its operations in the region – a move Ankara said led to a further strain in Turkey-EU ties.

Clashing claims

Athens says Ankara is breaking the international law by prospecting in Greek waters, including near the island of Kastellorizo.

Turkey insists it is within its rights in the energy-rich Mediterranean region, saying the tiny island of Kastellorizo should not count for imposing Greek sovereignty.

Earlier on Wednesday, Greece urged the EU to reconsider its customs union with Turkey in response to Ankara’s exploration in the Mediterranean, deploring what it termed Turkey’s “imperial fantasies”.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused Turkey of playing out “imperialist fantasies” in the neighbourhood, while his government has asked the EU to look into suspending its customs union with Turkey.

Meanwhile, Turkey condemned a joint declaration by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt criticising Ankara for its “illegal” activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The leaders of the three countries met in Cyprus on Wednesday for talks over tensions in the region before releasing the declaration.

The Turkish Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday slammed the trio’s claims targeting Turkey as “baseless”, and called on these countries to change their “hostile policy” against Ankara.

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Biden nominates Iran nuclear deal negotiator to State Department | Politics News



Wendy Sherman, Joe Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, was key US negotiator of 2015 Iran nuclear accord.

United States President-elect Joe Biden has nominated a key negotiator of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement to be the US’s next deputy secretary of state, the second-highest position at the State Department.

In a statement on Saturday, Biden unveiled a string of State Department nominees, including longstanding diplomat Wendy Sherman to be deputy secretary of state.

Sherman, a professor and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, served as under secretary of state for political affairs for four years during Barack Obama’s administration, when Biden was vice president.

“She has successfully rallied the world to strengthen democracy and confront some of the biggest national security challenges of our time, including leading the U.S. negotiating team for the Iran Deal,” the statement said.

Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, has promised to return to the accord under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018 as he pursued a “maximum pressure” strategy against the Iranian government.

The Trump administration has hit Tehran with a wide array of sanctions and tensions between the two countries have increased amid a torrent of hostile rhetoric and actions in the final weeks of the Republican president’s time in office.

In mid-December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran was not necessarily “excited” for Biden to take office, but that it was “very happy” to see Trump’s presidency end. “We are not very excited with Biden coming, but we are very happy with Trump going,” Rouhani said.

Meanwhile, Biden on Saturday also nominated Victoria Nuland, a retired career foreign service officer who was the top US diplomat for Europe, NATO ambassador and State Department spokeswoman, to be under secretary for political affairs.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to be secretary of state.

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