Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has placed his country’s armed forces on high alert over Turkish threats to send a surveying ship into Greek waters for drilling and seismic surveys.
The Greek Foreign Ministry said that Turkey’s “illegal” actions constitute “an escalation of the tension in our region” and demonstrate Ankara’s “complete contempt” for international law, international law of the sea, good neighborly relations and urgings of the European Union.
Mitsotakis, after a meeting with the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said that “The imposition of sanctions by the EU against Turkey will be a one-way street. It is up to Turkey to choose what relationship it wants to have with Greece, with Cyprus, with Europe. But I think at the moment it seems to be choosing the wrong path.”
The European Union said Turkey’s alert was “not helpful and sends the wrong message.”
The U.S. State Department sent a muddled message that called on Turkey to refrain from any drilling plans in the Eastern Mediterranean that will raise regional tensions. The State Department’s message angered some by referring to the said region as “disputed waters.”
“As long as the United States continues to describe Greece’s maritime zones in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean as ‘disputed’ and fails to hold Turkey accountable, it sends a signal to Erdogan that he can keep bullying U.S. allies in the region,” said Thanos Davelis, Director of Public Affairs at the Hellenic American Leadership Council, in a Tweet.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, The American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) expressed “alarm and grave concern” over Turkey’s actions, while also protesting the State Department’s “erroneous and unacceptable” use of the term “disputed” in reference to Eastern Mediterranean waters.
“The State Department’s urging Turkish authorities to halt its operations is welcomed,” AHEPA Supreme President George Horiates wrote in the letter. “However, any reference by the United States to Greece’s continental shelf as ‘disputed waters’ is simply unacceptable, erroneous, and only serves to embolden Turkey. It also runs contrary to repeated statements made by U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt that Greek islands are entitled to continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as recently as last week.”
The AHEPA President’s letter continued:
Let’s be clear—Kastellorizo is a red line for Greece. Greece will defend its sovereignty and its borders, which are also EU borders. This is a position we know resonates with the Trump administration. An armed conflict between NATO-member countries is not in the United States’ best interests and places NATO at risk. The United States must build on its initial message to Turkey urging its authorities to halt its operations. The United States must send a stronger and clearer message to Turkey that its actions are condemnable, violate international norms, and will not be tolerated by the United States. Otherwise, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will proceed with ‘business as usual,’ bringing two NATO members to the brink of armed conflict. The United States must not pursue a policy of appeasement with Turkey and wait until it is too late. It must exercise its influence on Turkey to deescalate tensions.
The Turkish survey ship, Oruc Reis, was still reported to be at anchor in the Turkish port of Antalya on Wednesday. But the maritime alert that Turkey issued earlier this week — known as a Navtex — prompted alarm in the Greek military.
The survey alert covers an area between Cyprus and Crete. Unconfirmed Greek media reports said that both Turkish and Greek navy ships were heading to an area near the Greek island of Kastellorizo, a short distance from the Turkish mainland.
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