The Address | Benghazi – Libya
BRUSSELS – The European Union has said it is concerned about naval maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean as Turkey resumes its energy exploration work in the area.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said that recent naval maneuvers in the Eastern Mediterranean are “extremely worrying”.
“They will not contribute to finding any solutions. On the contrary, they will lead to a greater antagonism and distrust,” the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs said.
“The present course of action will not serve the interests neither of the European Union nor of Turkey. We have to work together for the security in the Mediterranean,” Borrell added.
The warnings from Brussels come as Turkey restarts its contentious drilling and exploration work in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Monday that a Turkish research vessel had resumed its operations in the region.
“The seismic research ship Oruc Reis, which was anchored in Antalya for its new mission in the Mediterranean, has arrived in the area where it will operate,” he said on Twitter.
“Our efforts in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea for Turkey’s energy independence will continue unabated,” Donmez said.
According to the Greek press, at the same time a naval navigational warning was issued over Turkey’s intention to carry out operations south of a chain of islands lying between Crete and Cyprus between August 10 and 23.
In response, Athens has said its military assets in the area have been put on alert and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called a meeting of the country’s national security council.
On Thursday Greece and Egypt announced a new agreement on exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean, created as a direct response to a maritime deal struck between Turkey and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
Following the signing of the Greco-Egyptian deal, which has received the full backing of the UAE, Turkey restarted its cat-and-mouse exploration mission in the eastern Mediterranean.
At the end of July, direct naval clashes between Greece and Turkey, both members of Nato, were only narrowly avoided after an eleventh-hour intervention by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
On Monday, Greek Minister of State George Gerapetritis said Athens was closely monitoring Ankara’s reaction.
“When we decided for the first time to exercise decisive diplomacy on issues related to the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zones and with Italy and, above all, with Egypt, we weighed, we measured what the reaction would be,” he told Greek television.
“It is obvious that this would bother them, given that this action practically neutralized the only basis of Turkish diplomacy, which was the non-existent and illegal Turkish-Libyan memorandum.”
“The majority of the fleet is ready at the moment to go wherever required,” he added.
Greece and Turkey have been at odds for decades over access to areas of the eastern Mediterranean. Increasingly, the standoff has intersected with nine years of instability in Libya.
In December last year, the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord in Libya confirmed a new maritime border deal with Ankara in the Mediterranean Sea, in exchange for military co-operation.
The UAE, Egypt, France, Cyprus and Greece condemned the agreements, which would give Turkey access to potentially lucrative natural gas reserves in the area.
Differences in policy in the eastern Mediterranean have thrown into sharp relief not only contradictions in Nato but also in the EU.
On Monday, Mitsotakis held phone conversations with European Council President Charles Michel to discuss Greece’s deal with Egypt. He is scheduled to speak with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday evening.