(AlJazeera Photo)

Turkey and Europe Exchange Diplomatic Salvos Over Eastern Mediterranean Drilling

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ATHENS and YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — The diplomatic agencies of Armenia and Turkey have renewed their acrimonious exchange over the weekend after Yerevan voiced support for Greece and Cyprus in their dispute with Ankara over the latter’s Mediterranean gas and oil search effort.

“We closely follow the latest developments and naval mobilization in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean caused by the Turkish illegal and provocative actions. This destabilizing posturing in the Eastern Mediterranean manifests continued aggressive and expansionist policy that Turkey has been pursuing in its neighboring regions,” Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement released on August 15. (See related editorial on page 18.)

Turkey dispatched scientific vessel Oruc Reis on Monday, August 17, into disputed waters not far from Cyprus to search for oil and gas in the energy-rich waters. The move prompted Greece to dispatch its own military vessels to monitor the situation and sparked a war of words between the two rivals.

The EU and Greece both claim Turkey’s drilling in the region is illegal. EU lawmakers condemned Turkey’s naval movements during a video conference on Friday and urged de-escalation.

The Oruc Reis, which is between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, will continue work until August 23, he added.

“We reiterate Armenia’s unequivocal support and solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and call on Turkey to de-escalate the situation, respect the International Law and cease all actions within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Greece and Cyprus,” it added.

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International efforts will not stop Turkey from carrying out energy research in disputed eastern Mediterranean waters, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday

“We will not back down in the face of sanctions and threats,” said Turkey’s president, speaking in the northeastern city of Rize. “We will never bow to banditry on our continental shelf.”

During a meeting on August 14, EU foreign ministers said Turkey’s naval movements would lead to a “heightened risk of dangerous incidents.”

They said a deterioration in the relationship with Turkey was having far-reaching strategic consequences for the entire EU, well beyond the eastern Mediterranean.

France on Thursday announced it was “temporarily reinforcing” its presence in the eastern Mediterranean in support of Greece.

French President Macron said he will increase military presence in the Mediterranean over “unilateral” gas explorations by Turkey. He called on Ankara to cease the explorations in order to allow a “peaceful dialogue.”

Macron asked Turkey to cease oil and gas exploration in contested waters that has spurred tensions with Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis thanked Macron on Thursday for France’s pledge to increase its military presence.

Mitsotakis tweeted that Macron is a “true friend of Greece and also a fervent protector of European values and international law.”

In July, Macron had pushed for EU sanctions against Ankara for what he called “violations” of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief expressed “full solidarity” with Greece and Cyprus and urged a “immediate de-escalation” by Turkey after EU foreign ministers held urgent talks Friday on high military tensions over offshore drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

(RFE/RL and the Associated Press contributed to this report)

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