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The New Arab Staff

France to ramp up eastern mediterranean military presence amid Turkish oil, gas exploration

French President Emmanuel Macron said the events unfolding in the Eastern Mediterranean are "worrying" [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 August, 2020

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France announced it would temporarily boost its military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in response to Turkey's contested oil and gas exploration in the area.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced he would " temporarily reinforce" France's military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean due to Turkey's contested oil and gas exploration in the area.

Tensions over gas exploration in the disputed Eastern Mediterranean were again on this rise this week after Turkey resumed seismic research in waters claimed by Greece, a move deemed "extremely worrying" by the European Union.

"The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean is worrying. Turkey's unilateral decisions on oil exploration are causing tensions. They must end in order to allow a peaceful dialogue between neighboring countries and allies within NATO," Macron stated in a tweet.

"I have decided to temporarily reinforce the French military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, in cooperation with European partners including Greece," he added.

Athens has requested an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers over Ankara's resumption of gas exploration in disputed waters on Monday, a move later endorsed by EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, who said the issue would be discussed in a meeting between EU foreign ministers to take place on Friday.

Greece describes Turkey's exploration of waters to the west of Cyprus as "illegal activities which undermine peace and security in the region".

Turkey, however, considers the waters to be its own. The delineation of maritime borders in the area is complex, with supporters of Athens citing the sprawl of Greek islands across the sea and allies of Ankara pointing to the country's vast land mass.

"We will not consent to an attempt to imprison us on our shores over several square kilometres of islands," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.

Ankara made the decision to resume exploration activities in the area after Greece and Egypt signed an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) delineation agreement covering the region last week. Turkey had earlier paused the controversial activities amid rising tensions.

That deal clashes with Turkey's own EEZ pact with Libya.

Borrell had earlier described the Turkish Navy accompanying the Oruc Reis research vessel as "extremely worrying".

The EU "stands in full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece", European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said on Tuesday.

Tensions between neighbouring Turkey and Greece have been on the rise this year.

Turkey's conversion into a mosque of the Hagia Sophia - originally constructed as a Greek Orthodox cathedral under the Byzantines but later converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul - and a surge in migration at the Greek-Turkish border have also contributed to the tensions.

Relations between Turkey and France have also soured due to the Libyan conflict.

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