image Photo: Reuters

Turkey ratchets up EastMed tensions

Hostilities between Turkey and Greece over a disagreement in the Eastern Mediterranean are escalating.

In blatant disregard of a maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreement between Athens and Cairo, Ankara deployed an exploration vessel accompanied by 5 warships into a disputed area not far from the territorial waters of the Greek Island of Crete.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu attempted to justify the move by claiming it was made in response to the Greek-Egyptian deal; which had ignored Turkey’s own pact with Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

“At this point, nobody can say Turkey has not shown goodwill. We did but there is a country with ill-intentions on the other side. Therefore, if they want to blame somebody, they can blame Greece,” he said.

The Turkish top diplomat further announced that in addition to ongoing exploration, his country intends to issue new licenses for operations near the western borders of its continental shelf and step-up “all sorts of seismic and drilling operations” by its “re-mobilized” Oruç Reis vessel by the end of this month.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias warned that Ankara’s latest actions will not be tolerated. “Greece will defend its sovereignty and its rights,” he insisted, demanding that “Turkey to immediately leave the Greek continental shelf.”

The Greek top diplomat further called for an emergency meeting of the European Union Council of Foreign Ministers to tackle “the growing Turkish provocation and misconduct,” stressing that the “request comes at a time when there is a clear Turkish threat to peace and security in the eastern Mediterranean, Greece and Cyprus.”

For its part, Israel’s Foreign Ministry released a statement expressing “full support and solidarity with Greece in its maritime zones and its right to delimit its Exclusive Economic Zone,” and said that Jerusalem “follows closely as tension arises in the Eastern Mediterranean.”