France faces Turkey in the Mediterranean

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President Emmanuel Macron has announced that France’s military presence in the eastern Mediterranean needs to be stepped up, as tensions escalate between Greece and Turkey over oil and gas exploration in the disputed waters.In a phone call with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis last night, Macron expressed concern over what he called Turkey’s “one-sided” exploration in the region, Reuters reports. Ankara should “cease” its operations “in order to allow a peaceful dialogue” between nations, added the office of the French leader in a statement.

Macron pledged to “temporarily reinforce” the presence of the French army in order to “monitor the situation in the region and mark his determination to ensure respect for international law”.

This decision is likely to worsen relations between Paris and Ankara, which are close to breaking point in July when Macron pressed for EU sanctions against Turkey for what he called “violations” of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty on their territorial waters.

What are the allegations against Turkey?

As Al Jazeera reports, other NATO members Turkey and Greece “vehemently disagree on the overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources” in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, both countries with “divergent views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters mostly dotted with islands”.

In July, Macron called on the EU to impose sanctions on Ankara after the Turkish navy began planning seismic surveys in a maritime area between Cyprus and Crete – a move that Greece said was part of a attempt to encroach on its continental shelf.

Macron told EU leaders that “it is not acceptable for the maritime space of a European Union member state to be violated or threatened”.

Despite the threat of sanctions, however, the dispute escalated “on the verge of conflict” this week, after Ankara sent the seismic research vessel Oruc Reis – accompanied by Turkish Navy ships – to the Greek island. of Kastellorizo, according to the Times.

How is France reacting?

The statement from Macron’s office warned that France is determined to “uphold international law”.

In a message posted on Twitter on Wednesday, the president called the situation “worrying” and urged Turkey to stop its search operations.

“I have decided to temporarily strengthen the French military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, in cooperation with European partners, including Greece,” Macron said.

Relations between France and Turkey have become increasingly strained in recent years. In addition to recent gas disputes, the two countries disagree on whether NATO allies should respect the UN arms embargo on Libya, where France and Turkey support opposing parties. to conflict.

Macron also “vowed to support” the Kurds in Syria who are fighting against the Islamic State – an alliance which Turkey says amounts to supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Ankara is waging a bloody and controversial war against the radical Kurdish militant organization, designated as a terrorist group by the US, EU and Turkey.

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