Turkey on Saturday launched new military manoeuvres in the eastern Mediterranean expected to last two weeks, in a sign that heightened tensions between Ankara and Athens were likely to continue.
A dispute over maritime borders and gas drilling rights has reignited the long-running rivalry between Greece and Turkey, with the two neighbors staging rival naval drills.
In a message on NAVTEX, the international maritime navigational telex system, Turkey said it would carry out “shooting exercises” from Saturday until September 11 in a zone off the southern Turkish town of Anamur, north of the island of Cyprus.
Ankara already announced on Thursday that military exercises would take place on Tuesday and Wednesday in a zone further east.
In a sign of the volatility of the situation, Turkey's defense ministry said Friday that fighter jets had on Thursday intercepted six Greek aircraft which were approaching a zone where a Turkish research ship was deployed, forcing them to turn around.
On the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, we are clear and determined in defending EU’s interests and solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. We want to find paths towards a healthier relationship. It is in the mutual interest of both the EU and Turkey pic.twitter.com/uGQeqUkBqd— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) August 28, 2020
It was the deployment of the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis into Greek waters on August 10 that caused the current spike in tensions.
The EU on Friday warned Turkey it could face fresh sanctions - including tough economic measures - unless progress is made in reducing soaring tensions.
Turkey responded angrily to the warning.
“The fact that the EU is appealing for dialogue on the one hand and at the same time making other plans reflects a lack of sincerity,” Vice President Fuat Oktay said Saturday.
“Turkey will not hesitate to defend its interests,” he said.