Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday that he intends to temporarily strengthen the French military presence in the Mediterranean following the tensions caused in the region by the Turkish decision to search for hydrocarbons in disputed areas.
Greco-Turkish tensions in the eastern Mediterranean worry European leaders. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will meet in Vienna on Friday with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo as part of a diplomatic marathon conducted by Athens to mobilize the international community on these tensions. “Negotiations will focus on developments in the eastern Mediterranean in view of the escalation of the Turkish provocation,” a brief statement from the Greek Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday (August 12th).
“We hope that logic will finally prevail among our neighbor (Turkey) so that an honest dialogue can begin,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday. “When there is such a concentration of military forces in a restricted area threatens the danger of an accident,” he added in a statement.
The situation in the eastern Mediterranean is worrying. Turkey’s unilateral decision on oil exploration is causing tensions. These must be concluded to enable a peaceful dialogue between neighboring countries and NATO allies.
– Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 12, 2020
MikePompeos Mediterranean Tour
MikePompeo arrived in Prague on Tuesday, the start of a five-day tour of Central Europe to discuss China and 5G in particular.
NikosDendias will also attend on Friday from Vienna in the extra meeting at a video conference for EU foreign ministers, according to a statement from the minister.
Earlier Thursday, he will travel to Israel, a country bordering the eastern Mediterranean, for talks, according to the ministry.
The tense situation for weeks between Athens and Ankara deteriorated on Monday after Ankara deployed a seismic research vessel, escorted by military vessels, to the disputed southeastern Aegean Sea in the Mediterranean and rich in gas fields.
According to Athens, the Turkish ships were on Wednesday 60 nautical miles south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, or on the Greek continental shelf, which constitutes a “violation” of maritime borders.
“We will not accept de fait accompli”
The Greek navy is also in the area to “monitor” Turkish activities, according to a source from the Ministry of Defense.
Mr Mitsotakis assured that Greece would not try to exacerbate tensions, while warning “that no provocation would remain unanswered”.
NikosDendiasa called for an extra meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Tuesday in the hope of forcing Turkey to withdraw from the region.
“We urge Turkey to leave the Greek continental shelf without delay (…) we will not accept a fait accompli,” NikosDendias warned on Tuesday.
The extraordinary meeting with EU foreign ministers on Friday is devoted to the presidential election in Belarus but also to relations with Turkey and the situation in Lebanon.
The discovery of gas fields, a source of envy
The discovery in recent years of huge gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean has whetted the appetites of the riparian countries and increased tensions between Turkey and Greece, neighboring countries and allies within NATO, whose relations are regularly punctured by crises.
A sign that current tensions could worsen further, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglua pointed out on Tuesday that Ankara would expand its gas research in the eastern Mediterranean.
Mike Pompeop spends two days in the Czech Republic before heading to Slovenia, Austria and then Poland, which will host some of the US troops leaving Germany.