Turkey accuses France of fueling tensions in the eastern Mediterranean | News

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A photograph released Thursday by the Cypriot Ministry of Defense shows the exercises being carried out at its expense between Greece, Cyprus, France and Italy.

Turkey on Thursday accused France of stoking tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, where NATO allies Turkey and Greece are stuck in a deadlock over competing claims over offshore energy exploration rights.The accusation came as European Union foreign ministers were due to meet in Berlin as they tried to persuade EU member Greece and its neighbor Turkey to step aside. conflict. Ministers were due to debate a range of sanctions and other policy options that could convince Turkey to moderate its insistence on drilling energy reserves in disputed parts of the eastern Mediterranean.

Germany has engaged in shuttle diplomacy between Athens and Ankara to defuse tensions while US President Donald Trump had separate phone conversations with Greek and Turkish leaders on Wednesday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said he was in “constant contact” with Greece and Turkey.

“My message is that the situation must be resolved in a spirit of Allied solidarity and in accordance with international law,” Stoltenberg said during his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. “Dialogue and de-escalation are in everyone’s interest.”

In Ankara, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar criticized France for joining Italy, Greece and Cyprus in three-day military air and sea exercises off the eastern Mediterranean island and said Turkey would not be deterred by the show of force.

“To believe that it would be possible to thwart the operations of the Turkish armed forces with similar exercises and activities is nothing more than a pipe dream,” Akar said in an interview with the Anadolu agency, run by the State.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy accused France of deploying fighter jets to the ethnically divided island of Cyprus under the “pretext” of carrying out military exercises. The deployment was against treaties made in 1960, he said.

“France, which is not the guarantor of the island of Cyprus, is with this attitude by dangerously encouraging the Greek and Greek Cypriot duo, responsible for the current tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, to further aggravate the tension,” Aksoy said in a statement. declaration.

France and Greece will deploy both fighter jets and navy ships in the exercises, while Cyprus will activate its air defense system to test its capabilities, the Cypriot Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday.

Turkey, meanwhile, issued an advisory, known as Navtex, stating that it would hold live-fire military exercises on September 1 and 2 off its southern Mediterranean coast, opposite Cyprus.

The Turkish ship Oruc Reis has been conducting seismic research for weeks, escorted by Turkish warships. Athens, which claims the ship operates on Greece’s continental shelf in an area where it has exclusive rights to potential submarine gas and oil fields, has sent warships to observe and track the Turkish flotilla .

Turkey disputes Greece’s claims, insisting that the small Greek islands close to the Turkish coast should not be taken into account when delimiting maritime borders. Ankara accuses Athens of trying to seize an unfair share of the resources of the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey and Greece have both vowed to defend their competing claims in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged on Wednesday that his country “will never compromise on what is ours.” We are determined to do whatever is necessary in political, economic and military terms. ”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece plans to exercise its legal right to extend its territorial waters along its west coast, which faces Italy, from six to 12 nautical miles. The envisaged extension would not affect the territory at the center of the Greco-Turkish dispute. Turkey has warned in the past that an extension of Greek waters 12 nautical miles into the Aegean Sea, facing the Turkish coastline, would be seen as a reason to declare war on Greece.

Akar reiterated that Turkey is in favor of dialogue with Greece but is determined to safeguard its rights. “If our Greek counterparts agree, we would be happy to welcome them here,” he said. “We would not allow our rights to be violated,” he also said. “Turkey’s strength must not be tested.” [AP]

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