The possibility of a lasting crisis with Ankara is seen in Athens as highly likely, if the diplomatic initiatives to de-escalate the tension do not yield any results.
Athens for its part is reportedly preparing for any eventuality, since despite his recent rhetoric in favor of dialogue, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not sent signals to suggest the Turkish Oruc Reis research vessel will withdraw from the sea area in the Greek continental shelf.
According to close associates of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Oruc Reis is not conducting exploratory activities in the Greek continental shelf as it is accompanied by 10 Turkish warships. In fact, they add, the presence of the vessel in the area is more a “declaration” of Erdogan’s claims.
However, this scenario of lasting tensions may change, as the European Union is launching efforts to defuse the situation and to ultimately bring Athens and Ankara to the table for dialogue.
The US is on the same course as suggested by the meeting that took place in Vienna on Friday between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.
The involvement of international players is seen as having been prompted and expedited by the risk of a military incident, after a collision between a Greek and a Turkish frigate on Wednesday.
Ahead of the Foreign Affairs Council teleconference on Friday, Dendias met with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna for talks that focused on developments in the East Mediterranean. Earlier in the day, Schallenberg said that the EU should reassess its relations with Turkey in light of recent events.
“I have to say that Austria is very concerned about the dangerous and alarming situation which we believe could escalate,” Schallenberg said at a joint press conference with Pompeo. “Actions taken by certain states in the Eastern Mediterranean… should lead the European Union to re-evaluate its relations with Turkey,” he said.
Meanwhile, the US ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, met Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and, as he wrote on his Twitter account, “reaffirmed US support for Greece as a pillar of stability in the East Med and discussed initiatives to deepen our defense cooperation and build on [the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement] while reducing regional tensions.”
The Greek government had been expecting a strong Turkish reaction to the signing of its agreement with Egypt on the delimitation of the exclusive economic zones between the two countries.
However, it considered the deal with Egypt a necessary risk, as Athens sought to nullify the illegal Turkey-Libya memorandum which included areas of Greece’s continental shelf.
What’s more, the agreement with Cairo will serve as a very powerful diplomatic weapon in the event that the issue of maritime zones is referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.