Washington warns Ankara against East Med explorations

The U.S. State Department urged Ankara on Tuesday to stop any plans for explorations off the Greek islands in the Eastern Mediterranean and avoid raising tension in the region.

“The United States is aware that Turkey has issued a NAVTEX for research in disputed waters in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the Greek Reporter cited a spokesperson with the U.S. State Department as saying.

“We urge Turkish authorities to halt any plans for operations in the Eastern Mediterranean and to avoid steps that raise tensions in the region,” the statement said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkey announced plans to conduct explorations in the south and east of the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

Ankara sent drilling vessel Oruç Reis to the area to conduct explorations from July 21 until August 2.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reacted to the development, saying that Turkey is threatening to violate the sovereignty of Greece and Europe.

“Greece is following the developments with confidence and absolute readiness. The questioning of the sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus constitutes a questioning of the sovereign rights of Europe. If Turkey continues in this direction, the imposition of sanctions by the EU will be a one-way street,” Mitsotakis said.

Meanwhile, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Tuesday that Greek armed forces had been placed on alert while the chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff (GEETHA), Konstantin’s Floros, had expedited his return from Cyprus amid fears that Ankara would deliver on threats to launch hydrocarbon explorations in the region.

Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told his U.S. counterpart Mark Esper in a phone conversation on Tuesday afternoon that “Greece is prepared to defend its sovereign rights if necessary,” the Greek Reporter said.

Turkey’s latest move has also been met with criticism by Germany.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, during a visit to Athens on Tuesday, warned Turkey against drilling in the region.

“Regarding Turkey’s drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, we have a very clear position - international law must be respected so progress in EU-Turkey relations is only possible if Ankara stops provocations in the eastern Mediterranean,” Reuters quoted Maas as saying.

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