Ankara amped up tensions with Athens on Wednesday, warning that it will not allow anyone to interfere with the activities of its seismographic research vessel in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We will never allow a new harassment,” Turkey Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the Anadolu agency, in reference to an allegation last week by Ankara that a Greek frigate tried to prevent the Barbaros from conducting exploratory activities in a region bordering the exclusive economic zones of Greece and Cyprus.
“Our warships in the region are providing the necessary protection,” he said. The Barbaros is being accompanied by four warships and an oil tanker.
Moreover, according to the Deniz Haber Ajansi news site, the Turkish Navy has drafted new rules of engagement to deal with what it describes as Greek provocations.
Turkey has opposed Cyprus’s energy plans in the region, saying Nicosia is acting unilaterally and without the consent of the Turkish Cypriots who live in the island’s Turkish-occupied north.
The rhetoric emanating from Turkey came in the wake of a public spat between Athens and Ankara over the statement on Saturday by former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias that Greece is ready to extend its territorial waters from 6 to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea.
Akar said Turkey will take necessary measures if a decision is taken that compromises its rights and interests in the Aegean Sea.
Washington on Wednesday appeared to take a neutral stance on the issue, saying its policy had not changed.
“Turkey and Greece have long-established diplomatic channels for addressing these issues. As a matter of principle, the US supports the sovereignty [of both countries],” a US State Department official said.
For her part, European Union spokesperson Maja Kocijancic urged Turkey to respect international agreements in comments on Wednesday to EURACTIV.com.