Tag Archives: turkey

Turkey’s Erdogan accuses US of being supportive of terrorism in Iraq.

Advertisements

The US State Department on Sunday it “deplores the death of Turkish citizens” but was waiting for further confirmation that Ankara’s account of the 13 men’s death was true.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused the United States of siding with “terrorists” after blaming outlawed Kurdish militants of executing 13 Turks in northern Iraq.

Erdogan’s comments came a day after Ankara said Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels had killed 13 captives — most of them Turkish soldiers and police officers — they had allegedly abducted in southeast Turkey and kept in an Iraqi cave.

The PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that is believed to have left tens of thousands dead.

Advertisements

The United States and Turkey’s other Western allies recognise the PKK as a terror group.

But Washington has supported another Kurdish militia in Syria that Turkey sees as an offshoot of the PKK.

Advertisements

Turkey this month launched a military operation against rear PKK bases in northern Iraq that Erdogan said on Monday was designed in part to free the 13 hostages.

“The statement made by the United States is a farce,” Erdogan said in his first public comments on the incident.

“You said you did not support terrorists, when in fact you are on their side and behind them,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.

Advertisements

The US State Department on Sunday it “deplores the death of Turkish citizens” but was waiting for further confirmation that Ankara’s account of the 13 men’s death was true.

The PKK said the 13 died when Turkish forces bombed the cave where the men were being kept.

“If reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organisation, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” the State Department said in a statement.

Erdogan said Turkey’s NATO allies had to pick sides.

Advertisements

“After this, there are two options. Either act with Turkey with no ifs or buts, without questioning, or they will be a partner to every murder and bloodshed,” he said.

“The terrorist organisation on our doorstep, on our borders, is killing innocents.”

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Turkish sailors ‘kidnapped’ off Nigeria return home.

Advertisements

Pirate attacks on ships worldwide jumped 20 percent last year driven by a record spate of kidnappings off West Africa, the International Maritime Bureau said last month.

Fifteen Turkish sailors who were kidnapped on a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria last month arrived back in Istanbul on Sunday, where they were welcomed by their families, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Advertisements

The ship, the Mozart, had been en route from Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos to Cape Town in South Africa when it was boarded on January 23.

The unidentified armed men killed an Azerbaijani sailor and wounded several of the Liberian-flagged vessel’s crew.

Advertisements

The ship then sailed on to Gabon before contact was officially lost.

Turkey already said Friday that the sailors had been released.

They arrived at Istanbul’s international airport on Sunday to be greeted with applause in the presence of their relatives and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Anadolu reported.

Advertisements

The ship’s captain, Mustafa Kaya, told waiting media that the crew had been held in a forest.

“We suffered no physical abuse, but psychologically, it was very difficult,” he said.

Neither the government nor the ship’s owners have released any information about the sailors’ release, but their kidnappers had made a ransom demand.

Pirate attacks on ships worldwide jumped 20 percent last year driven by a record spate of kidnappings off West Africa, the International Maritime Bureau said last month.

Advertisements

Out of 135 sailors abducted globally last year, 130 were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea — the highest-ever number of crew members kidnapped in the area stretching thousands of kilometres (miles) from Senegal to Angola.

Ten sailors from the Turkish navy also kidnapped off the coast Nigeria were freed in August 2019.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Turkish politics ‘choked’ amid Erdogan’s call to alter constitution.

Advertisements

Under Turkish law, changes require 400 lawmakers to pass without a need for a referendum.

Four years after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed sweeping powers, he has wrong-footed his opponents once again by calling for a new constitution, sparking accusations of trying to set up a diversion from the country’s woes.

Taking seemingly everyone off guard, Erdogan mentioned early last week during one of his near-daily speeches that “it may be time for Turkey to reopen the debate about a new constitution”.

The timing aroused immediate suspicions over the intentions of a man who has been at the apex of Turkish political life since 2003, first as prime minister and since 2014 as president.

Advertisements

The 66-year-old Turkish leader is facing a sudden burst of student protests, an economy that was under strain even before the coronavirus pandemic struck last year, and polls showing a melting support base.

The current constitution was changed in a controversial 2017 referendum which created an executive presidency.

Advertisements

It went into force barely a year later when Erdogan won re-election, with the amendments allowing him to consolidate his power.

Since then the only politicians demanding constitutional changes have been members of the opposition, all calling for a return to the previous parliamentary democracy.

Few think this is what Erdogan has in mind.

Advertisements

“This is only an attempt to change the agenda so that the economy, the pandemic, farmers’ concerns, traders’ worries and rights violations aren’t discussed,” Idris Sahin, deputy chairman of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), told AFP.

DEVA was launched last year by Ali Babacan, a former Erdogan ally who won the West’s trust as economy minister.

Turkish President and leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during his party’s group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara on February 10, 2021. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

‘Not sincere’
Sahin dismissed Erdogan’s move as “absolutely not a sincere idea”, describing it instead as a belated response to opposition parties’ attempts to dilute the executive presidency.

He surmised that the president’s team realised that “for the first time, they weren’t setting the agenda. They lagged behind the opposition.”

Advertisements

Last month, Babacan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the main opposition CHP party agreed to work together on a “strengthened parliamentary system”.

Aware of these efforts weeks before the president took his stand, Erdogan’s coalition partner Devlet Bahceli of the ultranationalist MHP branded attempts to tinker with the executive presidency as “proof of desperation”.

Advertisements

Bahceli also suggested changing the law on political parties, further fuelling speculation that he wields outsized power despite being Erdogan’s junior partner, and was a major instigator behind the president’s call for a new basic law.

The MHP leader soon also backed the move.

But, like DEVA’s Sahin, a Western diplomat was sceptical that Erdogan is angling for actual changes.

Advertisements

“In the short term, the main objective seems to be to divide the opposition by forcing parties to take a stance on the constitutional debate which will probably be framed along the lines of ‘with or against Turkey’,” the diplomat told AFP.

‘Not serious’
Some think that if Erdogan does have anything specific in mind, it could be about scrapping an electoral rule that requires a presidential candidate to garner more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a second round.

“At this stage, this is not a serious or a well-developed proposal,” said Galip Dalay of the Robert Bosch Academy and Chatham House.

But “if he goes for the change of constitution, his main goal would be to change the requirement of the election of the president,” Dalay said

Advertisements

Aysuda Kolemen of Berlin’s Bard College agreed, projecting a scenario in which the opposition would have to rally behind a single candidate to challenge Erdogan in the next presidential vote, expected in 2023.

“If they can’t, Erdogan can win again,” Kolemen said.

Advertisements

But nothing is certain. Last week, the independent newspaper Cumhuriyet said the 50 percent-plus-one threshold would remain unchanged.

Tough sell
Either way, Erdogan faces an uphill struggle to get any new constitution approved.

Under Turkish law, changes require 400 lawmakers to pass without a need for a referendum. With 360 votes, a proposal can be put to the people.

Advertisements

Since Erdogan’s AKP party and the MHP have only 337 votes, they would need to work with at least some of the opposition to get changes through.

Another question is whether the public would support a new basic law.

“Selling a new constitution just four years after a profound overhaul is not going to be easy,” the Western diplomat said.

DEVA Party’s Sahin voiced similar thoughts.

Advertisements

“The changes are so new. Won’t people ask, do you want a constitution for you or for society?” Sahin asked.

“Unfortunately recent constitutional changes turned into something done for one man’s welfare and future. So it’s not possible for the public to support it.”

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Serbia, Turkey slams Israel-Kosovo ties.

Advertisements

The embassy move in May the following year was celebrated in Israel but roundly criticised elsewhere.

Serbia’s foreign minister has expressed dismay over Israel’s decision to recognise Kosovo, a former Serbian province whose statehood Belgrade denies, saying officials were “not happy” with the development.

Advertisements

The reaction came a day after Israel and Kosovo established diplomatic ties under a deal brokered by the United States, marking a victory for Pristina’s efforts to gain full global recognition of the independence it declared in 2008 following a war with Serbia in the 1990s.

“We have invested serious efforts in our relations with Israel in recent years and we are not happy with this decision,” Serbian foreign minister Nikola Selakovic told public broadcaster RTS on Tuesday.

Israel’s move will “undoubtedly influence relations between Serbia and Israel,” he said.

Advertisements

Most Western countries have recognised Kosovo, but its rejection by Serbia’s key allies Russia and China has seen it locked out of the United Nations.

Until Monday, Israel was another key holdout on Belgrade’s side.

Since establishing ties in 1991, the countries have maintained good relations with growing Israeli investment in the small Balkan state.

Turkey weighs in on embassy plan
In exchange for Israel’s recognition, Kosovo recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, becoming the first Muslim-majority territory to do so.

Advertisements

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Monday confirmed he had approved Kosovo’s “formal request to open an embassy” in the city.

To date, only the US and Guatemala have opened embassies in Jerusalem, while Serbia, Malawi and Honduras have previously pledged to do the same.

Advertisements

Kosovo’s embassy plans drew criticism from Turkey, with Ankara saying the proposed move violated UN resolutions and international law.

“It is clear that any step towards this direction will not serve the Palestinian cause and undermine the vision of a two-state solution,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a written statement on Monday.

US-brokered diplomatic deals

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the Palestinian Authority (PA) insisting that East Jerusalem – illegally occupied by Israel since 1967 – should serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Advertisements

There is a global consensus against recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital until the Palestinian conflict is resolved.

In 2017, Trump shocked observers by saying the US would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognise the latter as the capital of Israel.

The incoming administration of President Joe Biden has said it will keep the US embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, and continue to recognise the city as Israel’s capital.

Under Trump, the US also brokered a number of deals to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan..

Advertisements

Those agreements, known collectively as the Abraham Accords, were condemned by many majority-Muslim countries.

But unlike Kosovo, the Arab parties to the Abraham Accords have all maintained that their diplomatic missions in Israel will be in Tel Aviv.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Car bomb in Turkish controlled region of Northern Syria kills 5

Advertisements

Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies grabbed the region of Afrin from Kurdish fighters in 2018.

A car bomb in the Turkish-controlled region of Afrin in northern Syria Saturday killed five people including a child, a British-based war monitor said.

The car, which contained explosives, blew up in a neighbourhood where workshops are located, killing the child, three other civilians and an unidentified person, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the death toll could rise as 15 other people were wounded, some of them in critical condition.

Advertisements

Afrin and other areas in northern Syria under Turkish control are regularly rocked by such bombings.

There is usually no claim for them, although Turkey routinely blames Kurdish fighters it accuses of being “terrorists” linked to its outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In early January, another explosives-rigged vehicle killed one civilian in the town of Jindires in the Afrin region. The same day, a car bomb near a vegetable market in the Turkish-held border town of Ras al-Ain killed five people including two children.

In November, a car bomb went off near a bakery in Afrin, killing three people and wounding 16 others.

Advertisements

Syria’s war has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

It has evolved into a complex conflict involving jihadists and foreign powers including Turkey, which has grabbed swathes of Syrian territory along its southern border during several military campaigns.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Turkey proposes retaliation against Libya strongman

Advertisements

The two sides struck a ceasefire agreement in October, setting the stage for elections at the end of next year.

Turkey’s defence minister said that any attack by eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar on its personnel in the North African country would be met with force.

Advertisements

“A war criminal, murderer Haftar and his supporters must know that they will be seen as a legitimate target in case of any attack on Turkish forces” by his troops, Hulusi Akar said in an address to Turkish units in Tripoli late on Saturday and made available to media on Sunday.

His comments come days after Haftar said his forces would “prepare to drive out the occupier by faith, will and weapons,” referring to Turkish troops operating in support of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).

“If they take such a step, they will be unable to find any place to flee to,” Akar said, referring to Haftar’s forces.

Advertisements

“Everyone should come to their senses.”

Turkish support for the GNA earlier this year helped repel a 14-month offensive against the capital by Haftar, who is backed by Russia, Egypt and United Arab Emirates.

Akar on Saturday made an unscheduled visit to Tripoli where he discussed, according to Libyan officials, military cooperation between Ankara and the GNA.

Turkey’s defence minister said political talks based on the ceasefire sought to find a solution.

Advertisements

“What matters here is that everyone should contribute to a political solution. Any action other than that would be wrong,” he added.

Haftar had said there would be “no peace in the presence of a coloniser on our land” during his speech on Thursday.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Shocking: Turkish hospital inferno took lives of 9 COVID-19 patient

Advertisements

All the victims were patients who had been hospitalised with the coronavirus. Other patients affected by the fire were transferred to other hospitals.

At least nine coronavirus patients died on Saturday after an oxygen tank explosion triggered a fire at a hospital in southeastern Turkey, the health ministry said.

The blaze in an intensive care ward of the hospital in Gaziantep broke out when a tank on an artificial respirator exploded.

“We are profoundly saddened by this tragedy,” Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said before a planned visit to the hospital.

Advertisements

Turkey has recorded more than 1.9 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 17,600 deaths since the pandemic began a year ago.

Faced with a surge in cases, Turkey strengthened restrictions put in place at the end of November with a total curfew during the weekend and partial one during the week.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Turkey blows hot over Iran’s ‘abusive language’ against Erdogan

Advertisements

Iran is home to a large Azeri community, mainly in northwestern provinces next to Azerbaijan and Armenia, where the Aras river defines the border.

Turkey on Saturday rebuked Tehran for “offensive language” aimed at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in connection with a controversial poem that might suggest Iran’s northwestern provinces belong to Azerbaijan.

Iran and Turkey have increased economic cooperation over the past decade but remain rivals in several parts of the Middle East and Central Asia.

On Thursday, Erdogan paid a visit to staunch ally Azerbaijan for a military parade marking Baku’s victory over Armenia after six weeks of fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Advertisements

During his visit, Erdogan recited a poem that Tehran said could fan separatism among Iran’s Azeri minority.

The next day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter that “President Erdogan was not informed that what he ill-recited in Baku refers to the forcible separation of areas north of Aras from Iranian motherland”.

Advertisements

According to Iran’s news agency known to NoRM, the poem is “one of the separatist symbols of pan-turkism”.

ISNA said the verses point to Aras and “complains of the distance between Azeri-speaking people on the two sides of the river”.

Iranian authorities summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Tehran to complain about Erdogan’s “interventionist and unacceptable remarks”.

Advertisements

In return, Turkey summoned Iran’s ambassador to Ankara over the “baseless” claims.

Turkey doubled down on Saturday, with a statement by presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun that said: “We condemn the use of offensive language towards our president and our country over the recitation of a poem, whose meaning has been deliberately taken out of context.”

Altun said the poem “passionately reflects the emotional experience of an aggrieved people due to Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijani lands”.

“It does not include any references to Iran. Nor is that country implied in any way, shape or form.”

Advertisements

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told his Iranian counterpart in a phone call Saturday that “baseless and heavy statements made by Iran and aimed at our president are unacceptable”, a Turkish foreign ministry source said.

At difficult times of Iran, Turkey stood in solidarity with Iran when others turned their back against Tehran, and this increased the extent of Ankara’s diappointment, Cavusoglu told Zarif, according to the source.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Nagorno-karabakh War: Armenia on final route out of Karabakh

Advertisements

Fresh clashes over Karabakh erupted in late September and ended after Azerbaijani forces had reclaimed large areas from Armenian control.

Dressed in impeccable camouflage fatigues with Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, Russian peacekeepers stand guard along the last road linking Armenia with the restive region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

After meticulously writing down a car’s registration number in a large notebook, a soldier stands aside to let the driver pass and wishes him a good journey.

“When the peacekeepers arrived, the situation became calmer than during the war. It’s reassuring,” says Erik Tovmasyan, who is driving from Karabakh’s main city Stepanakert to the Armenian capital Yerevan for eye surgery.

Advertisements

For Armenians still reeling from defeat in recent fighting with Azerbaijan, the peacekeepers who deployed under a Moscow-brokered peace deal are a welcome presence.

But with the region surrounding the road set to be handed back to Azerbaijan next week, many here are facing an uncertain future.

Russia has sent 2,000 peacekeepers to the region under the deal that ended six weeks of heavy fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave that broke away from Azerbaijan’s control in a war in the 1990s.

The peacekeepers have deployed between the two sides including along a 60-kilometre (35-mile) stretch connecting Stepanakert with the Armenian border in the south.

Advertisements

Strategic road
The strategic road runs through the Lachin district, the third and last territory near Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenia will cede to Azerbaijan on December 1 under the peace deal.

Two other districts — neighbouring Kalbajar and Aghdam to the northeast — were returned to Azerbaijan earlier this month.

Advertisements

In its northern part, the Lachin corridor diverges towards Shusha, a strategic and historic town overlooking Stepanakert that was captured by Azerbaijan in a pivotal moment of the war.

The small road leading to Shusha is blocked by soldiers from Baku, who are positioned close to the Russians.

AFP journalists passing nearby could hear Azerbaijani songs and music broadcast over loudspeakers from their position.

Advertisements

“They do it from time to time,” says one of Moscow’s soldiers.

November 10 after Azerbaijan’s military overwhelmed Armenian separatist forces and threatened to advance on Karabakh’s main city Stepanakert. (Photo by Karen MINASYAN / AFP)

At another checkpoint on a road leading into the town, an Azerbaijani special forces captain tells AFP that the situation inside is calm.

“There are only soldiers in Shusha,” says the officer, who will not give his name. “Civilians (Azerbaijanis) come from time to time only to repair infrastructure” damaged in the fighting.

When Armenian separatists gained control of these districts three decades ago, local Azerbaijanis fled the territories and Armenians moved in.

Advertisements

Now, it is the Armenians who are deciding whether to abandon their homes, fearing what will happen when Azerbaijanis return.

‘Nowhere to go’
In the town of Lachin, at the heart of the five-kilometre-wide (three-mile-wide) corridor, the manager of a grocery store is wondering what to do.

Advertisements

“We have no information about whether we should leave,” says the man who does not wish to give his name, adding that he hopes to keep his store.

In front of his shop, 81-year-old Margarita Khanagyan leans on her cane as she stands next to an armoured vehicle belonging to the Russian peacekeepers.

“I left during the war, then we were told to come back and I came back. Now we have to leave again, but to where?”

Advertisements

Uncertainty also looms over the village of Aghavno, the last residential area before the border with Armenia where several dozen houses were built 10 years ago, just below the road.

Men here are always carrying rifles, prepared to defend themselves at any moment.

“They can’t scare us,” says village head Andranik Chavushyan, 39. “We will still be living here.”

Standing next to him, Narine Rasoyan begins to cry.

Advertisements

Pregnant with her sixth child, Rasoyan lost her husband in the recent fighting.

“I have nowhere to go with my five children, where would I stay?” she says through her tears. “Let them give me a house and I will leave.”

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Turkey: Berat, Erdogan’s son-in-law resigns as deputy head of sovereign wealth fund

Advertisements

Yet Albayrak still held on to his post as deputy head of the sovereign wealth fund, which was created in 2016 and now manages state assets officially valued at $22.6 billion.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law quit as the deputy head of Turkey’s huge sovereign wealth fund, completing a fall from grace that began with his surprise resignation as finance minister.

Berat Albayrak had been viewed as Turkey’s second most powerful figure until his chaotic departure from the government at the start of the month.

Married to the Turkish leader’s elder daughter, the 42-year-old quit as finance minister in a cryptic November 8 message on Instagram that cited health reasons.

Advertisements

His resignation from the helm of the Turkish economy was ignored by state media for more than 24 hours, until it was formally accepted by Erdogan the next night.

Albayrak’s two-year tenure as economy chief saw the lira lose 40 percent of its value against the dollar and the central bank burn though most of its reserves in trying to defend the currency.

Berat Albayrak speaks during a presentation to announce his economic policy in Istanbul, Turkey August 10, 2018. REUTERS/MURAD SEZER/FILE PHOTO

His departure was linked to Erdogan’s appointment of a new market-friendly central banker whom Albayrak had strongly opposed.

Naci Agbal, the new central bank governor, sharply raised the main interest rate at his first policy meeting last week, helping the lira halt its slide.

Advertisements

Erdogan’s office said little about Albayrak’s departure, noting in a one-sentence statement that he “left the board of the sovereign wealth fund of Turkey after asking to take leave”.

He was appointed as its deputy head in 2018, the same year Erdogan became its official chief.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Former Mali president dies in Turkey after critical condition.

Advertisements

Touré was president of Mali from 2002 to 2012 before being overthrown in a military coup.

Former Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré, has died.

Toure passed away on Monday in a hospital in Turkey, his family said.

He was 72.

He was recovering from a heart operation he had in Bamako before his condition deteriorated, prompting his evacuation to Turkey, according to his doctor.

Amadou Toumani Touré, a former soldier who came to power through an election was pushed out by mutinous soldiers angry at his government’s inability to stop a militant insurgency in the north of the country.


#Newsworthy

Buhari extends condolence to Greece, Turkey over earthquakes

Advertisements

Buhari commiserated with the bereaved families in Turkey’s city of Izmir and Greece’s island of Samos.

President Muhammadu Buhari has condoled with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic (Greece), Kyriakos Mitsotakis, over the reported earthquakes in their two countries in which many people died.

The Nigerian leader’s condolence message was contained in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in Abuja on Sunday.

Advertisements

He condoled with the two countries as they strive to recover from the earthquakes.

“The government and people of Nigeria stand in solidarity with Turkey and Greece in this trying period, as they deal with the unmitigated fallouts of the natural disaster,’’ the president added.

He prayed for the repose of the souls of the dead and wished the injured quick recovery.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: End provocation against Greece – Germany, U.S asks Turkey.

Advertisements

“Coercion, threats, intimidation and military activity will not resolve tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Turkey’s two key Western allies, the United States and Germany, on Tuesday urged it to pull back a ship it has returned to waters contested with Greece, with Washington denouncing the “calculated provocation.”

The Turkish navy said Sunday that the Oruc Reis exploration vessel was heading back to energy-rich eastern Mediterranean waters between the Greek island of Crete and Cyprus, weeks after it left amid an agreement for talks.

In a strongly-worded statement, the State Department said the US “deplores” the decision by Turkey and noted that Greece “asserts jurisdiction” over areas where the ship plans to operate through October 22.

“We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“Turkey’s announcement unilaterally raises tensions in the region and deliberately complicates the resumption of crucial exploratory talks between our NATO allies Greece and Turkey,” she said.

Advertisements

Turkey last sent the ship into contested waters in August backed by warships, alarming both Greece and Cyprus, which is partially occupied by Ankara.

Greece responded by staging military exercises but tensions eased when both Ankara and Athens agreed to talk through the crisis.

Greece said Tuesday there could be no diplomatic solution until the ship is withdrawn.

Greece “will not sit at the table for exploratory talks while the Oruc Reis and escorting warships are out there,” Minister of State George Gerapetritis told Parapolitika radio.

Advertisements

He said Athens would “emphatically” raise the dispute at a European council meeting starting Thursday.

Germany steps up tone
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month said that the withdrawal of the ship was a chance to give diplomacy a chance.

But Turkish officials also insisted the ship was only undergoing planned maintenance and would return to the eastern Mediterranean to continue its work.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, speaking ahead of a trip to Cyprus and Greece, said that Turkey “must end the cycle of detente and provocation if the government is interested in talks.”

Advertisements

“If there should be renewed Turkish gas exploration in the more controversial sea areas in the eastern Mediterranean, this would be a serious setback for efforts to de-escalate,” Maas said.

While France has staunchly backed Greece throughout the standoff with Turkey, Germany had irked many Greeks in August with what they perceived as a low-key response by Europe’s largest economic power.

Erdogan has a cordial relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has worked with Turkey both on stemming the flow of Syrian and other refugees into Europe and over the crisis in Libya.

Erdogan has also cultivated close ties with US President Donald Trump, who said of the Turkish leader in an interview for investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s latest book: “The tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them.”

Advertisements

The US relationship has nonetheless been expanding quickly with Athens, in part over its growing embrace of US ally Israel.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month visited Greece in a show of support in which he voiced hope over then easing tensions with Turkey.

Under Erdogan, Turkey has been newly assertive on multiple fronts, not just against historic rival Greece.

Erdogan in recent weeks has encouraged Azerbaijan in its campaign to end “occupation” of the Nagorno-Karabakh area by Armenia as the neighbours engage in their most serious fighting since 1994.


#Newsworthy…

Armenia, Azerbaijan clashes; France, Turkey trades insult.

Advertisements

Fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia entered a fourth day on Wednesday in the biggest eruption of the decades-old conflict since a 1994 ceasefire.

Armenia said three civilians had been killed in Martakert, a town located in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, as a result of an Azeri attack, local news agency Armenpress reported.

Azerbaijani and Armenian forces battles rage for day 2. [Live]

French President Emmanuel Macron said Turkey’s “warlike” rhetoric was encouraging Azerbaijan to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed region inside Azerbaijan and controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Armenia must return foreign mercenaries – Turkey Gov’t says.

It broke away from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s but is not recognised by any country as an independent republic.


#Newsworthy…

Armenia must return foreign mercenaries – Turkey Gov’t says.

Advertisements

Turkey said Armenia must stop its occupation of Azerbaijan’s lands and send back the “mercenaries and terrorists” it brought from abroad for stability in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, where Armenian and Azeri forces have clashed.

“Armenia must immediately halt its attacks, send back the mercenaries and terrorists it brought from abroad and withdraw from the Azerbaijan lands,” said Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, adding a ceasefire and peace are needed.


#Newsworthy…

Turkey swelling illegal drilling in Eastern Mediterranean – Cyprus accuses.

Advertisements

Ahead of special summit on crisis, Cypriot leader raises alarm as EU chief warns Ankara against intimidating neighbours.

Cyprus has accused Turkey of extending “illegal drilling” in disputed Mediterranean waters but said it is ready to engage in dialogue with Ankara to resolve differences over exploration rights.

On Tuesday, Turkey extended the operations of its Yavuz energy drill ship in the disputed area off Cyprus until October 12, in a move that could stir tension between the island’s Greek Cypriot government and Ankara.

“Yesterday, unfortunately a Turkish NAVTEX to expand illegal drilling by the Yavuz vessel was extended when at the same time, a series of initiatives are ongoing that seek an end to Ankara’s unlawful actions and de-escalation,” President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday, after a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel in Nicosia.

Yavuz will be accompanied by three other Turkish ships, according to a Turkish maritime notice that added “all vessels are strongly advised not to enter” the area, Turkish broadcaster TRT reported.

Advertisements

Anastasiades’s comments come a week ahead of a special summit of European Union leaders on September 24-25 to discuss how to resolve the crisis between Cyprus and Turkey.

Anastasiades said Turkey was continuing its provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding Cyprus would enter dialogue – but not under threats.

Meanwhile, the European Commission’s president on Wednesday warned Turkey against trying to intimidate Greece and Cyprus.

In her annual State of the EU speech, Ursula von der Leyen said Ankara was a key partner doing important work hosting refugees but stressed “none of this is justification for attempts to intimidate its neighbours”.

Advertisements

Turkey, Greece and Cyprus have been locked in a dispute over energy resources and maritime borders in the region, with Ankara infuriating the EU countries by sending research ships with naval escorts to work in contested waters.

There have been fears of conflict erupting and Cyprus is pressing the rest of the EU to impose fresh sanctions on Ankara over the drilling, a move Turkey has decried as lacking legal basis.

“Turkey is and will always be an important neighbour, but while we are close together on the map, the distance between us appears to be growing,” Von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and European Council President Charles Michel bump elbows after the news conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus September 16, 2020 [Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters]

“Yes, Turkey is in a troubled neighbourhood. And yes, it is hosting millions of refugees, for which we support them with considerable funding. But none of this is justification for attempts to intimidate its neighbours.”

Advertisements

Greece and Cyprus can count on Europe’s “full solidarity on protecting their legitimate sovereignty rights”, she added.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called for European “solidarity” on the issue and a renewed migrant crisis.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said his country has been proposing to restart exploratory talks with Greece.

“Exploratory talks actually cover all disputed issues between Turkey and Greece … The previous government [in Greece] … didn’t want to actually restart. And this government also has not been willing to restart the exploratory talks, so we have to make an agreement,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

East Mediterranean: Greece lauds return of turkish research vessel.

Advertisements

Greek government calls the departure of the Oruc Reis from disputed waters after weeks of tension ‘a positive step’.

A Turkish seismic survey vessel, whose research in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean has been at the heart of a weeks-long standoff between Ankara and Athens, has returned to waters near southern Turkey – a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions over offshore natural resources.

But Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar played down the significance of the move, saying the ship had returned to shore as part of scheduled plans and insisted it did not mean Ankara was “giving up our rights there”.

“There will be planned movements backwards and forwards,” Akar told state news agency Anadolu in Antalya, southern Turkey, on Sunday.

Neighbours and NATO allies Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent Oruc Reis to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

Turkey’s navy had issued an advisory earlier this month saying the vessel would continue operations in the area until September 12. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had said it would continue exploratory operations for longer but no extension to the advisory was issued as of noon.

Refinitiv ship tracking data showed Oruc Reis, along with two accompanying naval vessels, returned to a location just off the coast of Antalya.

Advertisements

The move was welcomed by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday.

“The return of Oruc Reis is a positive first step, I hope there will be continuity. We want to talk with Turkey but in a climate without provocations,” he told reporters in Thessaloniki.

Ankara faces potential sanctions from the European Union, which fully supports member states Greece and Cyprus, over the dispute. But many states, including Germany, want to defuse the stand-off through dialogue.

“A sanctions list exists as an option [against Turkey]. Our desire is not to see it implemented but it will be done if we see that the other side is not returning to the path of logic,” Mitsotakis said.

Advertisements

The dispute over potential oil and gas reserves triggered a military build-up in the eastern Mediterranean, with Turkey and Greece both dispatching warships to the area and conducting military exercises to assert their claims.

The Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis [File:Turkish Ministry of Energy/Handout via Reuters]

Turkey has repeatedly said it is open to solving issues with Greece through dialogue but publicly rejected any conditions, including Oruc Reis halting operations, before negotiations.

“If there are those who set preconditions for Turkey, we have preconditions too and these preconditions need to be met,” Cavusoglu said during a news conference on Saturday, without elaborating.

Earlier in September, Mitsotakis said his country would only start talks with Turkey to resolve conflicting claims once Turkish “provocations” ceased.

Advertisements

Turkey rejects EU criticism and says the bloc should remain impartial in the dispute, arguing the waters where exploratory natural gas drilling was being conducted were part of its Turkish continental shelf.

Turkey says it has a legitimate claim over the area in the eastern Mediterranean. There is no agreement between Greece and Turkey delimiting their continental shelves, while Turkey disputes any claims by Cyprus, with which it has no diplomatic relations.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Its internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government represents the whole island in the European Union, though its authority is effectively contained to the southern part. North Cyprus is an unrecognised Turkish Cypriot state recognised only by Ankara.

James Ker-Lindsay, a professor at the London School of Economics, said at the heart of the dispute is a 1924 maritime accord agreement between Turkey and Greece that is now outdated. He said Turkey is claiming one tiny Greek island is cutting off its access to vast gas resources.

Advertisements

“It’s an incredibly complex problem. A hundred years ago the two sorted out their borders but times have changed. International law was in a very different place, you couldn’t explore deep waters. But with technology we’ve now been able to,” he told Media known to Noble Reporters Media.

Amid the tension, Mitsotakis on Saturday announced a “robust” arms purchase programme and an overhaul of the country’s military.

In a keynote address in Thessaloniki, he said Greece would acquire 18 French-made Rafale warplanes, four multipurpose frigates, and four navy helicopters, while also recruiting 15,000 new troops and pouring resources into the national arms industry and cyberattack defence. New anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes and air force missiles will also be secured, he added.

Mitsotakis is believed to have hammered out the programme after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a southern European leaders summit in Corsica this week. France has strongly backed Greece in its burgeoning showdown with Turkey, as well as Cyprus.

Advertisements

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday took aim at Macron following French criticism of Turkish maritime activities in the eastern Mediterranean, as tensions between the NATO allies continue to escalate.

“You will have many more problems with me,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul. “Don’t mess with the Turkish people. Don’t mess with Turkey.”

Separately on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a diplomatic solution to the dispute between Greece and Turkey, saying continuing military tensions between the NATO allies only serve the alliance’s enemies.

“Increased military tensions help no one but adversaries who would like to see division in transatlantic unity,” Pompeo said after talks in Nicosia with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.


#Newsworthy…

Research machine at East Mediterranean heart moves back near Turkey shore

Advertisements

Greek government calls the departure of the Oruc Reis from disputed area after weeks of tension ‘a positive step’.

A Turkish seismic survey vessel, whose research in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean has been at the heart of a weeks-long standoff between Ankara and Athens, has returned to waters near the southern Turkish province of Antalya.

Neighbours and NATO allies Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent Oruc Reis to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

Turkey’s navy had issued an advisory earlier this month saying that the vessel would continue operations in the area until September 12. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had said it would continue exploratory operations for longer but no extension to the advisory was issued as of noon on Sunday.

Refinitiv ship tracking data showed Oruc Reis, along with two accompanying vessels, had returned to a location just off the coast of Antalya on Sunday.

The return of the Oruc Reis near Turkey’s southern shore was welcomed by the Greek government.

Advertisements

“This is a positive step. We will see how this develops to make a proper assessment,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told Skai, a television broadcaster.

Military build-up
The dispute over potential oil and gas reserves triggered a military build-up in the eastern Mediterranean, with Turkey and Greece both dispatching warships to the area and conducting military exercises to assert their claims.

Turkey has repeatedly said it is open to solving issues with Greece through dialogue but had publicly rejected any pre-conditions, including Oruc Reis halting operations, before negotiations.

“If there are those who set pre-conditions for Turkey, we have pre-conditions too and these pre-conditions need to be met,” Cavusoglu said during a news conference on Saturday, withour elaborating.

Advertisements

Earlier in September, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his country would only start talks with Turkey to resolve conflicting claims once Turkish “provocations” ceased.

Meanwhile, Turkish Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar said on Sunday in Antalya’s district of Kas that Turkey supports peace and dialogue “if our wishes and demands are fulfilled”.

His comments came as Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou visited the Greek island of Kastellorizo, located directly across the Mediterranean from Kas

The European Union, of which Greece is a member, has criticised Ankara for its actions and threatened sanctions as punishment.

Advertisements

Turkey rejects the criticism and says the bloc should remain impartial in the dispute, arguing that the waters where exploratory natural gas drilling was being conducted were part of its Turkish continental shelf.

Pompeo in Cyprus
Amid the tension, Mitsotakis on Saturday announced a “robust” arms purchase programme and an overhaul of the country’s military.

In a keynote address in Thessaloniki, he said Greece would acquire 18 French-made Rafale warplanes, four multipurpose frigates, and four navy helicopters, while also recruiting 15,000 new troops and pouring resources into the national arms industry and cyberattack defence. New anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes and air force missiles will also be secured, he added.

The Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis [File:Turkish Ministry of Energy/Handout via Reuters]

Mitsotakis is believed to have hammered out the programme after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a southern European leaders summit in Corsica this week. France has strongly backed Greece in its burgeoning showdown with Turkey, as well as Cyprus.

Advertisements

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday took aim at Macron following French criticism about Turkish maritime activities in the eastern Mediterranean, as tensions between the NATO allies continue to escalate.

“You will have many more problems with me,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul. “Don’t mess with the Turkish people. Don’t mess with Turkey.”

Separately on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a diplomatic solution to the dispute between Greece and Turkey, saying continuing military tensions between the NATO allies only serve the alliance’s enemies.

“Increased military tensions help no one but adversaries who would like to see division in transatlantic unity,” Pompeo said after talks in Nicosia with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.


#Newsworthy…

Turkish forces begin military exercises in Cyprus.

Advertisements

France, meanwhile, says sanctions against Ankara are on the table during European Council meeting later this month.

Turkey’s armed forces on Sunday began annual exercises in the breakaway republic of Northern Cyprus – an entity recognised only by Ankara – as tensions continue to rise with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s hunt for gas and oil reserves in waters claimed by Greece has put a huge strain on the relationship between the two NATO members.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday raised the stakes by warning Greece: “They will either understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or on the field through bitter experiences.”

As tensions run high, the Turkish military began its exercises called “Mediterranean Storm” with the Turkish Cypriot Security Command, Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter.

“The security priorities of our country and the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] are indispensable, along with diplomatic solutions in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Oktay said.

The Turkish defence ministry also tweeted the military exercises, which last until Thursday, continued “successfully”.

Advertisements

Cyprus is divided between the Greek Cypriot-run south – an EU member state – and the Turkish Cypriot north.

Turkey sanctions
Meanwhile, France said Turkey’s escalating conflict with Greece and Cyprus will be the main subject at this month’s European Council meeting, when sanctions will be considered against Ankara.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he and his counterparts in other EU countries had already discussed “the range of reprisals we could take with regards to Turkey”.

Turkey embarked on a military-backed hydrocarbon exploration venture in waters between Greece and Cyprus on August 10, ratcheting up tensions in a strategic corridor of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Advertisements

Greece responded with naval exercises to defend its maritime territory, which were later bolstered by the deployment of French frigates and fighter jets.

‘Up to the Turks’
The dispute between NATO members has underscored the rising geopolitical risks in the area as Turkey pursues more aggressively nationalist policies under Erdogan.

The European Union’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell has also raised the possibility of sanctions against Ankara, but so far Paris has been unable to persuade other EU nations to join its hardline response.

Le Drian urged Erdogan to begin talks over its Eastern Mediterranean ambitions between now and the European Council meeting.

Advertisements

“It’s up to the Turks to show that this matter … can be discussed,” he told France Inter radio. “If so, we can create a virtuous circle for all the problems on the table.”

While he declined to specify the type of sanctions Ankara could face, he said there was an “entire series of measures”.

“We are not short of options – and he knows that,” said Le Drian referring to Erdogan.

The European Council meeting is set to meet on September 24-25.


#Newsworthy…

East Mediterranean: Turkish leader, Erdogan threatens Greece.

Advertisements

Turkish president warns Greece to enter talks over disputed Mediterranean Sea claims or face ‘painful experiences’.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Greece to enter talks over disputed eastern Mediterranean territorial claims or face the consequences.

“They’re either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences,” he said on Saturday at a hospital’s opening ceremony in Istanbul.

The two NATO allies have been locked for weeks in a tense standoff in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey is prospecting the seabed for energy reserves in an area Greece claims as its own continental shelf.

Cyprus has also accused Turkey of breaching its sovereignty by drilling in their waters. All sides have deployed naval and air forces to assert their competing claims in the region.

Advertisements

“They are going to understand that Turkey has the political, economic and military power to tear up the immoral maps and documents imposed,” Erdogan added, referring to areas marked by Greece and Cyprus as their economic maritime zones.

He said Turkey was “ready for every eventuality and result”.

NATO said this week Greek and Turkish leaders had agreed to take part in technical talks to avoid accidents between their navies.

But Greece later said it had not agreed to the talks, leading to accusations from Turkey that the European Union country was shunning dialogue.

Advertisements

Tanks to the border?
On Saturday, a Turkish news report said Ankara redeployed armoured personnel carriers from the Syrian border to the one it shares with Greece.

The Cumhuriyet newspaper said 40 tanks were being transported from the Syrian border to Edirne in northwest Turkey and carried photographs of armoured vehicles loaded on trucks.

A military official speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations said the deployment was a regular movement of forces and unconnected to tension with Greece.

Reporting from Istanbul, Noble Reporters Media said officials have only said, “This is within the planned activity, the responsibility of the second army, [which is] responsible for the areas of Syria, Iraq and Iran.”

Advertisements

If the convoy is indeed heading to the border with Greece, then it is a part of the “diplomatic military arm wrestling in what is a tense situation between the two countries”, Dekker said.

“We just heard from Turkey’s president that … they won’t hesitate even going to a full-on military confrontation when it comes to defending what they say are their legitimate rights.”

Reporting from Athens, Noble Reporters Media said he does not believe the Greeks are concerned about the narrow land border they share with Turkey, as they have 1,300 tanks in their arsenal, most of which are “parked right there in the 130-kilometre-long stretch”.

“There is overwhelming armour opposite the Turkish border and that’s the only part of the Greek-Turkish theatre that the Greeks feel confident about,” Psaropoulos said.

Advertisements

“What they’re less confident about is the vast swath of the Aegean sea and now eastern Mediterranean sea.”

He added after eight years of recession and austerity measures imposed by its eurozone partners, Greece has cut its defence budget by about half, now amounting to roughly 3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

“The Greeks have traditionally spent very highly on defence. They are now unable to keep up with Turkey, which has almost triple the defence budget of Greece,” Psaropoulos said.

Practicing dogfights
Turkey on August 10 deployed the Oruc Reis research vessel and an escorting flotilla of warships to the waters between Cyprus and the Greek islands of Kastellorizo and Crete. The vessel’s stay in the contested waters has been extended three times.

Advertisements

Greece responded by staging naval exercises with several EU allies and the United Arab Emirates, not far from smaller manoeuvres Turkey conducted between Cyprus and Crete last week.

Ankara said it has every right to prospect the region and accuses Athens of trying to grab an unfair share of maritime resources.

Simulated dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighter pilots have multiplied over the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean.

A Turkish and a Greek frigate collided last month, reportedly causing minor damage to the Turkish frigate but no injuries.

Advertisements

Erdogan said Turkey has repeatedly expressed its willingness to come to a just agreement.

“Our word is sincere,” he said. “The problem is those before us disregard our rights and try to situate themselves above us.”

The crisis is the most serious in the two countries’ relations in decades. The neighbours have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, including once over maritime resources in the Aegean.

Earlier, Ankara announced joint military exercises with northern Cypriot forces from Sunday to September 10. The air, land, and sea drills are held every year.


#Newsworthy…

Leaders of Greece, Turkey trades insult over East Mediterranean talks.

Advertisements

Greek PM says cites Ankara’s ‘provocations’ as Turkish FM accuses Athens of lying over intentions to enter dialogue.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey over maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean have been reignited as political leaders of both countries traded insults amid efforts by NATO to foster dialogue.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday his country would only start talks with Turkey to resolve conflicting claims once Turkish “provocations” ceased.

The war of words escalated last month after Turkey dispatched a seismic survey vessel to a disputed area for energy exploration following a maritime deal between Greece and Egypt. Turkey says the pact infringes on its own continental shelf.

“[Our country] can and wants to discuss the demarcation of maritime zones in the Aegean Sea, in the Eastern Mediterranean, based on international law. But not under threats,” Mitsotakis said during a meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, who is visiting Athens.

Mitsotakis made the remarks during a meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi [Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool via Reuters]

“Once the provocations end, discussions will begin,” he said, adding that Greece’s foreign minister would deliver a letter from him outlining Athens’ case to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when the two meet in New York on Friday.

Advertisements

Also on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Greece and Turkey, both members of the Western alliance, had begun technical talks, but they had yet to agree on a deal to avoid accidental clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Turkey on Friday accused Greece of shunning the dialogue and lying by denying it had signed up to NATO-brokered talks.

A Greek frigate collided with a Turkish one in August and the two NATO members staged rival war games in the energy-rich but disputed region last week.

Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in the Mediterranean Sea [Handout/Reuters]

Stoltenberg has said Greek and Turkish leaders “agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military deconfliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents”.

Advertisements

But Greece said later on Thursday that Athens never agreed to the technical talks, claiming Stoltenberg’s statement did not “correspond to reality”.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Greece did, in fact, agree to the proposal when it was made.

“Greece denied the secretary general’s (remarks) but the one lying here is not the NATO secretary general, it’s Greece itself,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.

“Greece showed once more than it’s not in favour of dialogue.”


#Newsworthy…

Turkey, Greece to meet over Mediterranean tension.

Advertisements

Tensions running high over Turkey’s drilling activities, which Greece and Cyprus say violate their sovereignty.


Greece and Turkey are set to hold talks at NATO aimed at preventing clashes in the eastern Mediterranean, where they are at odds over maritime borders and gas exploration rights.

Tensions are running high over Turkey’s drilling activities, which Greece and Cyprus say violate their sovereignty, and both sides have deployed warships in a show of force, raising fears of conflict erupting by accident.

The two NATO allies have now agreed to get together to discuss ways to avoid an armed confrontation, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

“Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders, the two allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the eastern Mediterranean,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“Greece and Turkey are valued allies, and NATO is an important platform for consultations on all issues that affect our shared security.”

With the talks set to be of a technical military nature, they are unlikely to bring a complete solution to the complex, long-running rivalry between Greece and Turkey.

Advertisements

But observers hope they will at least offer an opening for further dialogue.

The decision to hold talks comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the two sides to reduce tensions and open diplomatic channels to ease the crisis.

Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in the Mediterranean sea [File: Greek Ministry of Defence Handout/Reuters]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck a defiant tone this week, extending the gas exploration mission and saying Ankara would not be intimidated by Greece’s support from European military powers such as France.

Large reserves of natural gas are believed to be located in the eastern Mediterranean, which Turkey is exploring in maritime areas claimed by Cyprus or Greece.

Advertisements

Ankara sent out drillships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying it and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have hydrocarbon exploration rights in the region.

Greece has disputed Turkey’s current energy activities in the eastern Mediterranean, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small Greek islands near the Turkish coast.

The European Union has been watching the escalating dispute with growing concern, with Germany spearheading efforts to get the sides to temper the rhetoric and settle their differences through talks.

The EU has repeatedly urged Turkey to stop its exploration activities and threatened to slap sanctions on Ankara if it refused to solve the dispute through dialogue.


#Newsworthy…


Turkey: East Mediterranean gas exploration stressed.

Advertisements

Turkish navy’s advisory says the Oruc Reis will continue working until September 12, a move Greece calls ‘illegal’.


Turkey says its Oruc Reis exploration vessel will carry out seismic surveys in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean until September 12, provoking an angry response from neighbouring Greece.

The two NATO allies vehemently disagree over claims to hydrocarbon resources in the area based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands.

Both sides have held military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for the dispute to escalate.

The Turkish navy announced the extension of the Oruc Reis’s mission late on Monday – it was previously scheduled to end on September 1.

Advertisements

The advisory came after the European Union’s executive earlier on Monday called for dialogue with Turkey and demanded that Ankara refrain from unilateral steps that stoke tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece’s foreign ministry called the advisory illegal and urged Turkey to ease tensions and work for stability in the region.

“Turkey continues to ignore calls for dialogue and to escalate its provocations,” the ministry said in a statement. “Greece won’t be blackmailed.”

Advertisements

Greece will keep seeking maritime deals with its neighbours in the region, based on international law and the law of the Sea, the ministry added.

Last week, Greece ratified an accord on maritime boundaries with Egypt, following a similar agreement signed between Turkey and Libya.

Turkey’s latest advisory referred to a specific exploration area. On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Oruc Reis would continue working for the next 90 days as it moved gradually closer to the Turkish province of Antalya.

Seismic surveys are part of preparatory work for potential hydrocarbon exploration.

Advertisements

Turkey has also been exploring for hydrocarbon resources in the Black Sea and discovered a 320-billion cubic metre (11.3 trillion cubic feet) gas field.

Separately, Turkey also said it will hold a military exercise off northwest Cyprus until September 11.

Turkey and Greece have held military exercises in the east Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for dispute over extent of their continental shelves to escalate [Greek Defence Ministry/AP]

Last week, the EU said it was preparing to impose sanctions on Turkey – including tough economic measures – unless progress is made in reducing soaring tensions with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay slammed the EU threat as “hypocritical”.


#Newsworthy…