Berlin/Athens/Ankara: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has warned that ‘Ankara must end the interplay between detente and provocation if the government is interested in talks, as it has repeatedly affirmed. Turkey should not initiate gas exploration in areas contested by Greece and continue with negotiations.’ Turkey has sent three of its ships to the Mediterranean again for gas exploration. The tensions in the region may once again flare-up, and therefore Germany’s warning assumes significance.
In August, Turkey had issued a Navtex alert and sent its research vessel Oruc Reis along with two auxiliary ships in the Mediterranean Sea. The move had drawn a severe reaction from Greece. The country had warned Turkey to immediately stop carrying out illegal activities threatening peace and stability in the region. Also, the US, European Union (EU) and NATO had expressed displeasure over the move. As Turkish activities led to a rise in tensions, France announced it would strengthen military deployments in the Mediterranean and sent frigate La Fayette as well as Rafale fighter jets. Turkey, however, continued with its operations and tension in the region escalated. Also, the US and EU showed solidarity towards Greece and began to pressurise Turkey. The added pressure led to Turkey pulling back its ship from the Mediterranean and also starting negotiations with Greece.
Last week, Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey had even held discussions during an event hosted by a think tank in Europe. After that, Turkey sent its vessels to the region again in what appears to be an attempt at provocation. Turkey issued a Navtex alert and sent research ship Orus Reis, with two other ships Ataman ad Cengiz Han near Greek Island of Kastellorizo. The three vessels are said to remain operational in the region till October 22. Turkish Foreign Minister issued a statement in support of the operation and said it would continue with its operations as also protect its rights. Moreover, the Minister has warned that Turkey would even start drilling if natural gas were found in the region.
Greece responded severely over the Turkish move. The Greek Foreign Minister levelled allegations against Turkey as he said, ‘Turkey must withdraw its decision. The new operation is a deliberate attempt to fuel tensions. Turkish activities pose a serious threat to the peace and security of the Mediterranean Sea’. Greece also said that Turkish move of reinitialising its operations showed the country is unreliable.
The US and EU have indicated support for Greece in its dispute with Turkey. Only a few days ago, Turkey was warned of sanctions over its actions in the Mediterranean Sea. Thereafter, the statements from Germany, which holds top-most authority over EU, has drawn much attention. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will be making a visit to Turkey on Wednesday.