Erdoğan may try to raise tensions with Greece in East Med, Aegean - report

Greece has concerns that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean in response to the warship deal signed between Athens and Paris, Kathimerini newspaper reported on Monday.

Turkey’s issuing of a new international maritime notice (Navtex) on Friday, announcing that its seismic survey ship Oruç Reis will conduct further “exploratory work” in the north of Cyprus, is “also indicative of the Turkish intentions,” it said.

France and Greece sealed a deal last month for the latter’s acquisition of three defence and intervention frigates (FDIs) for the Hellenic Navy for 2.9 billion euros ($3.38 billion) with an option for a fourth on Sept. 28. France also sold six Rafael fighter jets to Greece’s air force.

“Europe needs to stop being naive when it comes to defending its interests and building its own military capacity,” French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking after the signature of the agreement, said.

“When we are under pressure from powers, which at times harden [their stance], we need to react and show that we have the power and capacity to defend ourselves. Not escalating things, but protecting ourselves,” Macron said in a news conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Erdoğan found himself in a difficult position after Greece strengthened its military by ratifying a naval agreement with France, Kathimerini said.

Athens is worrying that Turkish president may try to raise tensions, “not in a sense of questioning Greek sovereignty, but reverting to his 2020 stance, to show that the French-Greek deal is inoperative,” according to the newspaper.  

As a most dangerous scenario, Turkey may deploy a floating drilling rig in areas where the Oruç Reis used to conduct surveys, the newspaper said, adding that it can also send fishing boats into Greek territorial waters.

Diplomatic relations between Greece and Turkey reached the lowest point in decades last year after Turkey sent Oruç Reis, escorted by warships, into waters claimed by Greece to search for natural gas. Greece responded by deploying its navy.

The standoff prompted the EU to temporarily impose sanctions against senior Turkish Energy Ministry officials.

The sides have since held bilateral contacts to help resolve the dispute, searching for common ground to end long-standing differences over maritime borders.

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