Turkey defiant against threats of sanctions and fear of conflict over Mediterranean Sea mission

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Threats and sanctions from the European Union will not deter Turkey, the country’s president said after sending a scientific boat on a voyage into disputed waters.

The Oruc Reis was accompanied by a small navy fleet into the eastern Mediterranean Sea region on Monday, prompting Greece to dispatch in its own military assets to observe.

By Friday, two ships had been involved in what was being called a minor collision, the EU had backed Greece and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had met the Greek foreign minister and called for peace.

On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the ship would continue it voyage until August 23.

Map shows competing maritime borders according to agreements made by Athens and Cairo, Tripoli and Ankara
Map shows competing maritime borders according to agreements made by Athens and Cairo, Tripoli and Ankara

"We will never bow to banditry on our continental shelf. We will not back down against the language of sanctions and threats," Mr Erdogan said.

"On this question, our country is entirely in the right and we will continue to defend our rights, using all the means at our disposal," he added.

The Tonnerre is escorted by Greek and French military vessels. Greek National Defence/AP)

The French Tonnerre helicopter carrier, rear left, is escorted by Greek and French military vessels during a maritime exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean, where Greek and Turkish warships are also closely shadowing each other. (Greek National Defence/AP)

The Turkish seismic research vessel 'Oruc Reis' heading west of Antalya in the Mediterranean Sea. Turkish Defence Ministry/AFP

Tension are high between Greece and Turkey, over the 'Oruc-Reis' and its mission in the eastern Mediterranean. IHA via AP

Turkey’s claims to the waters, which it says are on its continental shelf, have repeatedly been dismissed as illegal by Greece and its allies. Turkish Defence Ministry/AFP

Turkish ships accompany the 'Oruc Reis,' a seismic research vessel. Turkish Defence Ministry/AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for dialogue while still pushing ahead with a Mediterranean gas development plan that has outraged Greece. AFP

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned of the potential for a mishap with Greek and Turkish navies both in the area.. EPA

France will strengthen its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Reuters

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Greece and Turkey have been are in a years-long dispute over rights to the resource-rich waters of the eastern Mediterranean, and the search for oil and gas.

At the heart of the disagreement are overlapping claims to parts of the eastern Mediterranean Sea that border the many Greek islands in the region.

Turkey’s claims to the waters, which it says are on its continental shelf, have repeatedly been dismissed as illegal by Greece and its allies.

The Oruc Reis, which is between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, will continue work until August 23, Mr Erdogan added.

The EU’s 27 foreign ministers rallied behind Greece and Cyprus over its territorial dispute with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, and warned Turkish naval mobilisations were exacerbating an already “grave” situation.

A statement by the ministers hinted at the possibility of sanctions in the future if Turkey failed to de-escalate, with a broader discussion on relations with Ankara expected to take place later this month.

An EU statement warned of the wider ramifications that the clash is causing.

“Ministers stressed that the serious deterioration in the relationship with Turkey is having far-reaching strategic consequences for the entire EU, well beyond the eastern Mediterranean,” it said.

Updated: August 16, 2020 04:02 AM

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