With yet another round of exploratory low-level talks set to start between Ankara and Athens on Wednesday, Turkey is raising tensions in what appears to be an uncomfortable autumn in bilateral relations.
The most serious incident was the harassment of research ship Nautical Geo, which is conducting surveys for the laying of the EastMed natural gas pipeline in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said on Monday that the Nautical Geo, a Greek-Cypriot research vessel sailing under the Maltese flag, was pushed back from the Turkish continental shelf at the weekend after being warned that it was trespassing.
Sources inside the Defense Ministry of the Republic of Cyprus said that the Nautical Geo was conducting research inside the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) when it was harassed by Turkish vessels illegally sailing in the area.
There were also several intrusions by Turkish fighter jets into Greek airspace. Some of them were armed, Greek authorities said.
The ministers of Greece and Cyprus, who met in Athens on Monday, condemned Turkey’s actions.
“Greece does not pose a threat to anyone, nor will it be bullied by illegal actions,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said.
“It will protect its sovereignty [and] its sovereign rights in accordance with international law and the law of the sea,” he added.
Referring to the 63rd round of low-level exploratory talks that are set to take place in Ankara Wednesday, Dendias rebuffed recurring Turkish calls for the demilitarization of Greece’s eastern Aegean islands and accused Turkey of “undermining [the contacts] before they even begin.”
The Greek foreign minister also condemned plans by Turkey and the self-declared breakaway state in northern Cyprus to partially reopen the abandoned resort of Varosha, as well as plans to hold military drills inside the Mediterranean island’s territorial waters. Dendias also slammed a recent Turkish announcement regarding energy exploration on Cyprus’ continental shelf.
“Turkey’s behavior is not acceptable,” he said, while warning of European sanctions.
“[Turkey’s] foreign policy is still founded on a revisionist, neo-Ottoman approach, mostly based on the country’s military power,” Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said.