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New crisis … Greece responds to Ankara with military maneuvers

By Marwa Mahmoud

Following a slight decrease in the tension between the two countries, ties between Turkey and Greece have again deteriorated over the past few days, particularly following the comments made yesterday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Tuesday, the scene seemed to go to more tension, due to a Greek military alert.

At dawn today, Athens started military exercises involving its naval and air forces in the Mediterranean Sea, south-east of Crete and south of the Greek island of Kastelorizo, near the region to which Turkey sent the Oroch Prime research vessel, accompanied by warships, to search the Mediterranean Sea for gas and oil deposits.

At the same time, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas headed to Greece and Turkey, Tuesday, in an attempt to ease the growing tension between the two allies in NATO, and to defuse the crisis over exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

In the other side, the Greek Foreign Minister, Giojos Gerapeterts, emphasized that “not to bargain with the Turks under any military coercion,” praising France’s relationship with Athens in the face of the crisis with Turkey.

Erdogan declared on Monday that the Turkish Navy would not withdraw from its position in the eastern Mediterranean, accusing Greece of spreading chaos. “Those who dump Greece in front of the Turkish Navy do not stand behind them,” he said, following a cabinet meeting.

It also considered that Athens has no right to broadcast navigational guidance known as NAFTEX in the areas claimed by Ankara. “Greece has announced its navigation instructions illegally and in a crude manner. With this position, Greece is creating chaos that it cannot escape from,” he said.

It is reported that the two countries sent frigates, in the midst of an escalating war of words due to conflicting demands for entitlement to energy resources.

Turkey has extended the exploration mission of the survey ship Aruj Reis in a disputed area in the eastern Mediterranean until August 27, thus fueling tension in the region.

And Athena described the survey as illegal. Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters on Monday that Greece has issued navigation advisories that will also expire on August 27.

He also stressed that his country “will respond calmly with readiness on the diplomatic and practical levels. It will do everything necessary to defend its sovereign rights.”

There are significant disagreements between Turkey and Greece, two NATO members, over the control of oil and gas resources in the region, based on differing views on the extension of the continental shelf of each of the two countries in the waters that are spread over most of the Greek islands.

In addition to the tension between the two nations, relations between Ankara and the countries of the European Union, in particular France, are experiencing an growing tension on the backdrop of Turkish movements in the Mediterranean.