ready for war

Greek And Turkish Frigates Collide In Eastern Mediterranean
South Front, Aug 15 2020

A Greek and a Turkish warship were involved in a collision on Wednesday during a confrontation in the eastern Mediterranean, a Greek defence source said, describing it as an ‘accident.’ Tensions were already high 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. Turkey’s plan to send its Oruc Reis seismic exploration ship to the disputed area was initially stalled by German attempts to broker a compromise. Encouraged by Merkel, Turkish and Greek officials planned to resume talks over competing maritime claims that had been suspended for several years. However, the Turkish Government ordered the survey operation to resume after Greece and Egypt announced the signing of a maritime agreement that overlaps with the agreement signed by Turkey and Libya’s Government of National Accord late last year. The Turkish Oruc Reis survey ship has been moving between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, escorted by the Turkish navy and shadowed by Greek frigates. On Wednesday one of the Greek frigates, the Limnos, was approaching the survey vessel when it entered 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 impacted with the aft section of the Turkish frigate, the defence 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 French warships 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 interferes with the survey vessel’s mission. Erdogan said on Thursday that any attack on a Turkish ship exploring for oil and gas in disputed Mediterranean waters would incur a ‘high price’ and implied that Turkey had already taken measures to respond to the latest incident. Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara, without giving details:

We said that if you attack our Oruc Reis you will pay a high price, and they got their first answer today.

Shortly after the collision, Macron held a phone conversation with Mitsotakis and ordered the deployment of additional French warships and jet fighters to the area. Greece is planning to raise the matter and ask for solidarity at a meeting between EU foreign ministers on Friday, a Greek official said. Greece and Turkey are allies in NATO but their relations have long been fraught with tension. Disputes have ranged from boundaries of offshore continental shelves and airspace to the island of Cyprus.

Turkey warns Greece, slams ‘bully’ France
Al Jazeera, Aug 14 2020

Turkey has warned Greece of retaliation against any attack on its survey vessel in the eastern Mediterranean and accused France of acting like a bully amid escalating tensions in the energy-rich region. Speaking to reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Erdogan said one of the warships accompanying the exploratory Oruc Reis vessel, the Kemal Reis, had “given the necessary response” to an attack on Thursday. He said:

If this continues, they will receive their answer in kind. We can’t let even the smallest attack go without an answer.

Turkey and Greece are vehemently at odds over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the increasingly volatile region. Tensions rose on Monday after Ankara launched exploration operations in a disputed area of the Mediterranean by sending a seismic vessel accompanied by a small navy fleet into the region. Greece responded by dispatching its own military assets, resulting in a mild collision of Greek and Turkish warships during the standoff on Wednesday. Greek defence sources said it was an accident but Turkey called it a provocation. Turkey’s warning to Greece came as the European Union’s foreign ministers are meeting on Friday to address the emerging crisis, which has pitted Ankara against its uneasy NATO ally and the entire EU bloc.

Meanwhile, France on Thursday also announced it was “temporarily reinforcing” its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in support of Greece. The decision to send in reinforcements has only added to tensions between Paris and Ankara, already high because of opposing approaches to the Libya conflict and other parts of the Middle East, and saw the diplomatic rhetoric rise another notch. Cavusoglu said during a visit to Switzerland on Friday that Turkey was looking for a peaceful solution to the crisis and was only expecting “common sense” from Greece. He said:

France especially should avoid steps that will increase tensions. They will not get anywhere by acting like bullies, whether in Libya, the northeast of Syria, in Iraq or the Mediterranean. Of course we do not wish to escalate, but Greece should act with common sense. We are always on the side of peaceful dialogue.

In their meeting, EU foreign ministers are widely expected to reaffirm their support for Greece’s interpretation of maritime boundaries and to urge all sides to respect international law. But Turkey says Greece is using its control of a few tiny islands off the coast of Turkey to claim an outsized share of the Mediterranean Sea. Germany has taken a leading role in trying to mediate the dispute. Erdogan had followed Merkel’s urgings and suspended the Oruc Reis mission last month to give talks another chance. Greece then signed a maritime agreement with Egypt that appeared to be aimed at countering a similar deal Turkey had signed with the UN-recognised government in Libya last year. The Egyptian deal was quickly followed by Erdogan’s decision to push ahead with the Oruc Reis mission this week. Merkel’s spox said on Friday:

These tensions are worrying. What’s important is de-escalation. The two countries need to talk directly to each other.

On Thursday, Erdogan said:

I agree with Merkel about the need to develop a process of protective understanding. After speaking to me, Merkel spoke to Mitsotakis. I hope she has expressed the line to him discussed with us.

Chronis Kapalidis of Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) told Al Jazeera:

Greece has expressed its readiness to sit at the table, but only after all military forces have been withdrawn. You cannot have diplomatic discussion while you have naval vessels confronting each other in a small geographic area.

Erdogan says Turkey could suspend relations with UAE over Israel deal
AFP, Aug 14 2020

ISTANBUL — Erdogan said on Friday that his country could suspend diplomatic relations with the UAE after a landmark deal between Israel and the Gulf state. Erdogan told reporters:

I gave an order to the foreign minister. I said we could suspend diplomatic relations with the Abu Dhabi administration or withdraw our ambassador.

In the deal announced on Thursday by Pindostan, Israel pledged to suspend its planned annexation of parts of the West Bank in exchange for a normalization of ties with the UAE. The PA on Thursday announced the “immediate” recall of its ambassador to the UAE in protest at the deal. Erdogan is a strong advocate of the Palestinian cause who has frequently criticized Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, Turkey still maintains diplomatic ties with Israel. Earlier this year he criticized Faschingstein’s Middle East peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “treason.” Erdogan’s spox tweeted on Friday:

History will not forget those who betray the Palestinian people and sell out the Palestinian cause. Turkey will continue to stand by the Palestinian people.

The Turkish foreign ministry earlier described the UAE-Israel deal as a hypocritical betrayal of the Palestinian cause. Ties between the UAE and Turkey have been strained for a long time, and have especially deteriorated over the conflict in Libya, where the two countries support opposing sides.

Trump ‘misspoke’ in saying Israel is suspending ‘settlements,’ meant annexation
Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, Aug 14 2020

WASHINGTON — Trump ‘misspoke’ Thursday when he said that Israel was “suspending settlements in the West Bank” as part of the historic agreement between the Jewish state and the UAE to establish fully normalized relations. The Times of Israel was told Friday that the president meant to say that Israel was suspending plans to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank, as he specified in other comments at the same press briefing, and as set out in the joint press release issued hours earlier by Israel, the UAE and Pindostan. Reading from prepared remarks at the start of the Thursday press briefing, Trump said:

Israel is suspending settlements in the West Bank, which is a big deal, a bold step toward achieving peace.

The Times of Israel reported on Thursday that it seemed more likely that he had intended to say Israel was “suspending annexation” or possibly “suspending annexation of the settlements.” On Israel’s Channel 12 news on Friday night, analyst Amnon Abramovich, citing the president’s remark, said Jerusalem had agreed to a moratorium on settlement activity in the West Bank. Netanyahu did agree to a 10-month freeze during the Obama Administration’s peacemaking efforts, but has made no such commitment as part of the Trump peace bid, nor has the administration asked that he do so. In fact, while the official White House transcript of the press briefing also shows that the president made the comment, The Times of Israel confirmed on Friday that the president simply ‘misspoke.’

Netanyahu is already being heavily criticized by settler leaders and right-wing legislators for agreeing, as part of the deal with the UAE, to suspend his plan to annex some 30% of the West Bank. He has insisted that he ultimately still intends to go ahead with the annexation move, in full coordination with Pindostan, but right-wing opponents have asserted that this is mere lip-service. Netanyahu said late Thursday:

There is no change to our plans to apply sovereignty over Yesha, in coordination with Pindostan. I remain committed to that.

Trump had merely asked him to “temporarily halt” the move to apply sovereignty in parts of Yesha, Netanyahu added. Netanyahu has vowed repeatedly to annex all of the settlements and the entire Jordan Valley, territory that the Trump White House allocated to Israel under its peace proposal, which conditionally envisions a Palestinian state in the remaining territory with land swaps. Trump referred to that suspension of the annexation plan several times at his press briefing. He said first that Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank was “more than just off the table,” and that Israel had agreed not to carry it out, in a contradiction of Netanyahu’s declaration hours earlier that it “remains on the table.” Trump said that while that was the situation “right now,” he couldn’t talk about “some time in the future.” The Pindo ambassador to Israel said it was “off the table now, but it’s not off the table permanently.”

The Israeli premier had intended to move ahead with the proposal on Jul 1, but the plan stalled when Netanyahu did not get the green light to move forward from the Trump administration. Thursday’s historic deal, the first for a Gulf state, marked the third peace agreement Israel has struck with an Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan. Trump said he hoped to host a signing ceremony in about three weeks. In the 24 hours since the announcement, there have been suggestions that more Arab states will follow in UAE’s footsteps. Jared Kushner said that there was a “very good chance” that more deals will be announced in the coming 90 days. Netanyahu also predicted a widening circle of peace. Senior Israeli boxtops reportedly said Thursday that they are in advanced talks with Bahrain about normalizing ties. A senior Pindo boxtop also said that Oman was in the mix, according to a report from Israel’s public broadcaster.

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