Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the President of Turkey. - Mikhail Metzel / TASS / Sipa USA / SIPA
"The time of the bosses is over." Turkey announced on Thursday new military maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean and the extension of its research in an area rich in hydrocarbons. A decision that risks aggravating already high tensions with Greece.
As a sign of its refusal to abandon its standoff with Athens and its supporters, Ankara has also strongly accused France of increasing tensions by behaving like a “kingpin”.
Germany calls for a "diplomatic solution"
Faced with the escalation of tensions marked by rival military maneuvers carried out the day before by Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean, Germany, which is trying to calm people down through mediation, called on Thursday for a "diplomatic solution" .
But on the ground, it is time for the drums of war: the Turkish navy announced that the seismic vessel Oruç Reis, whose mission was to end on Thursday, would search for hydrocarbons in an area claimed by Greece until September 1st.
It was precisely the deployment of the Oruc Reis and its military escort to the south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo on August 10 that aroused the ire of Athens and triggered the escalation of tensions still ongoing. “We will continue these activities (research for hydrocarbons) as long as necessary. There is no deadline, ”Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Thursday in an interview with Turkish state news agency Anadolu.
"Shooting exercises" scheduled for September
The Turkish navy also announced Thursday that it would conduct "gunnery exercises" on September 1 and 2 off Iskenderun, in an area north-east of the island of Cyprus. But these maneuvers do not worry Athens, because they take place far from Greece, in an area where Turkey is carrying out "its own exercises", a Greek military source told AFP.
Faced with this volatile situation, rival military maneuvers "must cease" to allow dialogue between Athens and Ankara, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Thursday. "The parties are not going to sit at the same table as warships face each other" in the region, Haas said at the start of a meeting of European ministers which will continue on Friday.
Trump worried about tensions
In a telephone interview with Turkish Head of State Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump also expressed his concern about "the rise in tensions between the two NATO allies", according to the House. White. Erdogan said in the same interview that Turkey was not the one "causing instability in the eastern Mediterranean", according to Ankara.
"Greece is ready for a significant de-escalation provided that Turkey immediately stops its provocative actions", for his part declared Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who also spoke on Wednesday with the American president by telephone.
Ankara regularly expresses its annoyance about the intervention of European countries, in particular France, and the United States in its dispute with Greece. The dispute over maritime borders between Turkey and Greece is old, but it has taken on another dimension with the discovery, over the past decade, of immense reserves of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish Defense Minister also accused France on Thursday of contributing to the escalation by deploying warplanes to Cyprus to express support for Athens.
“The time of the big guys is over. You have no chance of getting anything from us by doing this, ”Akar said. Mr. Akar further called on Greece for a direct dialogue with Turkey. “Our Greek neighbors should know that they will not be able to obtain anything by calling on countries like France (…) We, the Turks and the Greeks, must solve our problems ourselves through dialogue”.
Greece has repeatedly called, unsuccessfully, for "sanctions" from Europe against Turkey. Athens could rephrase its request at the EU 27 meeting Thursday and Friday in Berlin.
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