France has temporarily deployed two Rafale fighters and two vessels of the national navy in the eastern Mediterranean against a backdrop of tensions between Greece and Turkey over gas exploitation, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces announced Thursday (August 13th).
On Tuesday, Ankara said that it had sent a ship the day before to search for hydrocarbons in an area two-thirds of the Greek maritime zone, disputed for decades by Turkey. Greece immediately reacted by sending a boat “Watch” Turkish activities, according to Athens, warning through the voice of its prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, “That no provocation would go unanswered”.
Macron denounces “violations” of Greek sovereignty
Emmanuel Macron announced wednesday evening the temporary strengthening of the French military presence in this area and called on Greece and Turkey, both members of NATO, to coordinate more to ease tensions. On July 23, the head of state had strongly criticized the « violations » of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty by Turkey concerning the exploration of gas resources at sea.
« [La] military presence [française] aims to strengthen the autonomous assessment of the situation and to affirm France’s attachment to free movement, to the safety of maritime navigation in the Mediterranean and to respect for international law ”, said for its part the Ministry of the Armed Forces.
The two Rafale will do “Step” Thursday in Souda, Crete, and will stay there ” A few days “, specified the ministry. They had previously been deployed to Cyprus from Monday to Wednesday for an exercise. The helicopter carrier Thunder, which is on its way to Beirut to provide aid after the deadly explosion of August 4, was also joined on the night of Wednesday to Thursday in the Mediterranean by the frigate La Fayette, who had sailed from Larnaca (Cyprus) and carried out an exercise with the Greek Navy.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday morning said during a speech to his party officials that he would meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel during the day.
“The solution in the Eastern Mediterranean passes through dialogue and negotiations”, said the Turkish president, adding however that Ankara does not “Would let no country infringe on its rights”.
Athens accuses Ankara of violating its territory by carrying out energy research in the south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo (Meis, in Turkish), but Turkey refuses to admit that this small territory located near its coasts limits its field of action . “Claiming maritime sovereignty by using the island of Meis, located two kilometers from the Turkish coast and 580 kilometers from mainland Greece, cannot be rationally explained”Mr. Erdogan added to his party officials.
The discovery in recent years of vast gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean has whetted the appetite of the riparian countries and heightened tensions between Turkey and Greece, Ankara particularly wishing to impose itself in the oil rush and assert itself as the leading power. in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Greece and Turkey have always had complicated neighborly relations, but since the failed coup against Erdogan in 2016, the situation has deteriorated markedly”, explained to World Panagiotis Tsakonas, professor of international relations at the University of Athens. Faced in his country with a severe economic crisis, the Turkish president is trying to shine on the international scene and extend his influence beyond Turkish borders, in Syria, Libya, the Mediterranean.
Another sign of this desire to conquer: in November 2019, Turkey signed an agreement with the Libyan National Accord Government (GAN) which delimits bilateral maritime borders by encroaching on exclusive Greek and Cypriot areas.