Gas conflict in the eastern Mediterranean: Athens arming

In response to acute tensions with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, Greece has launched an extensive rearmament program.

Gas conflict in the eastern Mediterranean: Athens arming

“There will be a national shield,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during a speech in the port city of Thessaloniki, which was broadcast on Greek television.

The Mitsotakis government plans to purchase 18 French Rafale multipurpose aircraft. In addition, it is planned to purchase four new frigates and modernize four more existing German-made frigates. The stock of anti-aircraft missiles, torpedoes and other ammunition will also be increased. In addition, the Greek arms industry should contribute more to the armament of the country – for example, it affects the shipyards near Athens. According to Mitsotakis, the military strength will also be increased: 15,000 new professional soldiers will be hired over the next five years.

In the eastern Mediterranean, a dispute over alleged natural gas reserves between NATO members Greece and Turkey has been going on for weeks. Greece accuses Turkey of illegal exploration of deposits in the area of ​​the Greek islands. The Ankara government denies the accusations, arguing that the waters where natural gas is being drilled on a trial basis belongs to the Turkish continental shelf.

Mitsotakis stressed that Greece is ready to peacefully settle the differences over the gas conflict with Turkey. If Turkey wants to do the same, and there is still no agreement, the controversial issue of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) could be referred to the International Court of Justice.

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Turkey’s actions as “unacceptable” and said on Thursday that, in his opinion, Ankara is no longer a partner in the Mediterranean region.

“Our red lines are respect for the sovereignty of each European member state, respect for international law,” said the French head of state on the Mediterranean island of Corsica at an informal summit of heads of state and government of seven southern EU states, including Greece.

Then Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Macron: “Don’t mess with the Turkish people, don’t mess with Turkey,” he said at an event in Istanbul. “Mr. Macron, you will have a lot more problems with me,” Erdogan said.

During a visit to the Republic of Cyprus, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed concern about Turkey’s actions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades said after a meeting with Pompeo, which was broadcast on Cypriot state television, that problems can be solved by diplomatic means, but “not with the help of gunboats.”

Turkey does not recognize Cyprus. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded in the north of the island with the help of Turkey, but only recognized by Ankara. On the other hand, the entire island is recognized worldwide by the Republic of Cyprus and has been a member of the EU since 2004.

Turkey and Cyprus have been arguing for years over the Cyprus issue and over alleged natural gas deposits under the seabed. As with Greece, Turkey is exploring underground areas in the maritime regions claimed by Cyprus.