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Iran Press TV

Turkey urges France to refrain from escalating Mediterranean tensions

Iran Press TV

Friday, 14 August 2020 3:20 PM

Turkey has urged France to refrain from escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, following the French government's announcement of a plan to increase military presence in the area in support of Ankara's regional rival Greece.

"They will not get anywhere by acting like bullies, whether in Libya, the northeast of Syria, in Iraq, or the Mediterranean," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference with his Swiss counterpart in the Swiss city of Bern on Friday.

France held training exercises with Greek forces off the island of Crete on Thursday amid rising tensions between Ankara and Athens over Turkish oil and gas exploration in disputed waters in the sea.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that France would "temporarily reinforce" its military presence to "monitor the situation in the region and mark its determination to uphold international law," according to his office.

Last month, the French president called for European Union (EU) sanctions against Turkey for what he described as "violations" of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters.

Tensions have been escalating in the eastern Mediterranean since Monday, when Turkey announced the resumption of energy exploration research activity in a disputed area with Greece. Turkey has dispatched a research ship, the Oruc Reis, escorted by naval vessels, off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, where Turkey disputes Greek maritime rights. Ankara had paused the research activities on a request from Germany.

The Turkish vessels were being shadowed by Greek warships. And the situation has been tense.

'Mini-collision' in the Mediterranean

On Wednesday, a Greek warship was involved in a mild collision with one of the Turkish naval vessels accompanying the Oruc Reis research vessel, Reuters reported on Friday.

An unnamed Greek defense source called the incident a "mini-collision," explaining that the Greek warship, the Limnos, was approaching the survey vessel when it came into the path of one of its naval escorts.

The source added that the Greek warship maneuvered to avoid a head-on collision and in the process, its bow touched the rear of the Kemal Reis.

"It was an accident," the source said, adding that the Greek frigate was not damaged.

This is while Ankara has described the incident as a provocation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warned of retaliation after saying the Kemal Reis vessel had fended off an attack by Greek warships.

Switzerland offers to mediate

Cavusoglu said Switzerland had offered to mediate in the eastern Mediterranean crisis with Greece, adding that Turkey had agreed in principle.

He also warned Greece against provoking Turkey's seismic research vessel.

"Greece needs to act with common sense. They should not harass our Oruc Reis vessel as they would receive the necessary response," Cavusoglu said.

Greece and Turkey almost went to war in 1974 over Cyprus, which has since been divided, with the northern third run by a Turkish Cypriot administration recognized only by Turkey and the southern two thirds governed by the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government.

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