eastern mediterranean at boiling point

Greek and Turkish Warships Collide in Mediterranean ‘Accident’
Reuters, Aug 14 2020

Oruc Reis escorted by Turkish Navy ships off Antalya, Aug 10 2020.

A Greek and a Turkish warship were involved in a mini-collision on Wednesday during a standoff in the eastern Mediterranean, a Greek defense source said, describing it as an “accident.” Tensions have risen this week after Turkey sent a survey vessel to the region, escorted by warships, to map out sea territory for possible oil and gas drilling, an area where Turkey and Greece both claim jurisdiction. EU foreign ministers were due to discuss the issue on Friday. The Turkish Oruc Reis survey ship has been moving between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, shadowed by a number of Greek frigates. On Wednesday one of them, the Limnos, was approaching the survey vessel when it came into the path of one of its Turkish naval escorts, the Kemal Reis. The Greek frigate manoeuvred to avoid a head-on collision and in the process its bow touched the rear of the Turkish frigate, the defense source said. “It was an accident,” the source said, adding the Limnos was not damaged. It subsequently took part in a joint military exercise with France off Crete on Thursday morning. Cavusoglu said France should refrain from steps that escalate tensions. Switzerland has offered to mediate in the row and Turkey has agreed in principle, Cavusoglu told a televised news conference with his Swiss counterpart in Bern, adding Greece will get a response if it provokes the survey vessel.

Turkey Warns France Against Escalation Over Oruc Reis Vessel in Mediterranean
Sputnik News, Aug 14 2020

Oruc Reis. Photo: Ibrahim Laleli/AP

Erdogan stated on Friday that if Greek forces continue to “attack” the Oruc Reis, his country will retaliate. His words were echoed by Cavusoglu, who said that Greece should not provoke the vessel “like it did before,” also warning that there would be a response. Cavusoglu also noted that Switzerland has offered to mediate in the conflict and that Ankara has agreed in principle. Previously, the European Union and the United States warned that they would impose sanctions on Ankara if Turkish vessels continue operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, stating that Turkey is conducting the operations illegally. Oruc Reis started exploration drilling in Greek-claimed waters in the Mediterranean on Monday, which led to a massive backlash from Athens. Later in the week, reports suggested that the Greek naval frigate Limnos and the Turkish frigate Kemalreis (F-247) faced off in close proximity to the Oruc Reis. Turkish-Greek tensions over drilling in the Mediterranean have been simmering for many months. The situation escalated last week when Athens signed an agreement with Egypt on the delimitation of maritime zones to reassert its sovereignty claims. Ankara, however, signed an agreement with similar provisions with Libya last year. Turkey also conducted operations near Cyprus, which the EU also considers to be a violation of international law.

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