Turkish fleet has followed the prospecting vessel Oruç Reis in waters off Greece. According to the Tuco government, this fleet has gone to “escort” the ship that is going to carry out a seismic survey on the area. The Greek Navy announced that it would open fire and is on high alert.
In view of the new tensions, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke on Monday afternoon with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and published on his Twitter account after the meeting that the “policy of equidistance (of NATO between Ankara and Athens) is counterproductive and unacceptable”. For his part Stoltenberg said that “the situation must be resolved in a spirit of solidarity and in accordance with international law”.
On 21 July Turkey announced that the prospector ship was beginning to operate in the waters around the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kastelorizo, located two kilometres off the Turkish coast. At the same time, the Eurasian nation was carrying out military manoeuvres in the south of the island in which, according to the Greek press, up to 19 boats were participating. This situation caused the Greek armed forces to raise their attention to high alert.
A call from Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, at the end of July led both sides to agree to negotiate, but tensions resumed when Greece signed a pact with Egypt to delimit its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which was in direct conflict with the one signed between Ankara and the government based in Tripoli in November 2019. This Turkish-Libyan agreement was rejected by Egypt, Cyprus and Greece as a violation of their economic rights.
The foreign ministers of Egypt and Greece, Sameh Shoukry and Nikos Dendias respectively, agreed in Cairo on the pact that “allows both countries to move forward in maximising the use of the resources available in the EEZ, especially the promising oil and gas reserves,” said Shoukry.
The Erdogan government expressed its opposition to the Greek-Egyptian agreement: “Turkey will not allow any activities in the region and is determined to continue to defend without hesitation the legitimate rights and interests of our country and the Turkish Cypriots.The area, which is rich in natural gas and oil, is an area of conflict between Ankara and Athens.
This situation, which pits Ankara against a member country of the European Union, has led to a major deterioration in relations between Turkey and France. Emmanuel Macron has become the main supporter of Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The two leaders met in late January where they discussed tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and relations with Turkey. The French president said Erdogan had broken his promises after Turkish warships and Syrian mercenaries arrived in Libyan territory. Faced with this situation, Macron assured that if this escalation of tensions continued, France would send military vessels to support Athens, as did Italy, which had been increasing its presence in the area for months.
Germany also showed its support for the Greek government. German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass visited Athens last July and said that “international law must be respected. We can only make progress in relations with Turkey if Ankara avoids provocations.