Barbaros Hayrettin Pasha is one; Fatih (the Conqueror, the Stormer) is quite another. One does not refer here to historical figures of Ottoman/Turkish/Near East history, the former being a legendary admiral who ruled the Mediterranean in the first half of the XVIth century, the latter the glorious Sultan who headed Ottoman Empire in the mid XVth century and (in the second half of his reign, in his twenties…) was in charge of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and the final fall of the Byzantine empire.
The reference here is to the two hydrocarbon-exploration vessels which are currently wreaking havoc (or close to) in the Eastern Med, within the Cyprus EEZ; the first is a 85m-long research/seismic survey vessel of some 2250 dwt, built in 2011, the latter a 230m-long drillship of 34.250 dwt, also built in 2011 (as DeepSea Metro-II) but acquired by the Turkish State oil company TPAO in 2011.
Barbaros has participated time and again in hydrocarbon search missions in the Eastern Mediterranean to “show the flag” of Turkish demands in the region and deepen the dispute over the EEZ of Cyprus (but also in contentious areas of the Aegean). But the Turkish NAVTEX 509/2019 that has announced that Fatih (along with 3 support vessels: Korkut, Sankar and Altan , of Norwegian/SIEM ownership) will be engaged in drilling operations for natural gas South of Cyprus – in the wider neighbourhood of areas conceded by Cyprus to ExxonMobil which has started deploying its own survey vessels – is quite different a story. It is no longer a matter of “a diplomatic spat in the Eastern Med that intensifies”, it is a direct challenge of Cyprus’s sovereignty: drilling is drilling!
The fact that Cyprus, through its Defense Minister, has gone a step further to communicating the situation to the U.N. and alerted the EUMC/the Military Committee of the EU clearly shows that a new dimension is introduced in the restless EastMed. Turkey may act as a rogue state at times; it is by no means a failed state – its every move has to be watched carefully.