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Iran Press TV

France to bolster military presence in Mediterranean amid tensions with Turkey

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 13 August 2020 7:36 AM

France has planned to increase military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, amid rising tensions between Turkey and European Union (EU) member Greece over Turkish oil and gas exploration in disputed waters in the sea.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the plan in a phone conversation with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday, also voicing concern about the "unilateral" exploration by Turkey in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean.

France will "temporarily reinforce" its military presence to "monitor the situation in the region and mark its determination to uphold international law," Macron's office said in a statement.

The statement also underlined that prospecting had to "cease in order to allow a peaceful dialog" between Greece and Turkey.

Last month, Macron called for EU sanctions against Ankara for what he described as "violations" of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters.

Ties between Turkey and Greece are in tumult over competing claims to natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus and Turkey have argued for years regarding the ownership of fossil fuels in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara says Turkish Cypriots are entitled to a share of the resources.

The standoff between Ankara and Athens deepened on Monday after Turkey launched naval drills off two Greek islands and announced the resumption of its energy exploration research activity in the disputed area.

Turkey has dispatched a seismic research vessel, accompanied by warships, off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, where Ankara contests Greek maritime rights.

Turkey had paused the research activities after a request from Germany but restarted them after an agreement signed between Greece and Egypt that designated an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean between the two countries. Turkey views the agreement as an attempt to keep it out of the region.

The Turkish defense minister said on Wednesday that his country was interested in resolving the dispute with Greece through dialog.

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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