Featured East Mediterranean Standoff

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Greek officials say UAE warplanes to arrive for joint drills

NICHOLAS PAPHITIS

today

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The United Arab Emirates is sending warplanes to the southern Greek island of Crete for joint training with Greece’s air force, officials in Athens said Friday as military tensions continued to simmer between Greece and neighboring Turkey over offshore energy rights.

The officials said between two and four UAE fighters were expected to reach Souda Naval Base during the weekend and would hold joint training and exercises with the Hellenic Air Force next week. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter with journalists.

The move follows talks between senior Greek and UAE military and government officials.

The United Arab Emirates is a bitter rival of Turkey — Greece’s historic regional rival — in a broader struggle over political Islam, while Dubai and Ankara back rival factions in the fighting in Libya. Turkey is also angry about the UAE’s decision to normalize relations with Israel.

Greece is keen for gestures of international support in its ongoing face-off with Turkey, its much larger and more heavily armed nominal NATO ally. Turkey has sent a warship-escorted research vessel to prospect for oil and gas in eastern Mediterranean waters where Athens claims exclusive rights to the underlying seabed.

Athens responded by summoning the Turkish ships to withdraw, sending its own warships to the area and placing its military on alert.

Ankara says it has every right to prospect in the area between Crete, Cyprus and southern Turkey claimed by Greece, as well as in nearby waters claimed by Cyprus, and will carry on regardless.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warmly welcomed a move by France two weeks ago to send two warships for joint drills with the Greek navy in the area sequestered by Turkey, while two French fighter jets were deployed to the Souda air base for joint flights.

The joint drills drew condemnation from Turkey.

https://apnews.com/df8e48ffbd73d0a68633729528390f0a
 

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Greek, Turkish warships in 'mini collision' Ankara calls provocative
Michele Kambas - Tuvan Gumrukcu - Reuters
World News -August 14, 2020 / 12:26 PM


gRyu2fC.jpg


Turkish Navy frigate TCG Kemal Reis (F-247) is pictured in the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul, Turkey May 13, 2019. Picture taken May 13, 2019. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik



Tensions between the NATO allies have risen this week after Turkey sent a survey vessel to the region, escorted by warships, to map out sea territory for possible oil and gas drilling in an area where Turkey and Greece both claim jurisdiction.

The Turkish Oruc Reis survey ship has been moving between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, shadowed by a number of Greek frigates. On Wednesday one of them, the Limnos, was approaching the survey vessel when it came into the path of one of its Turkish naval escorts, the Kemal Reis.

The Greek frigate manoeuvred to avoid a head-on collision and in the process its bow touched the rear of the Turkish frigate, the defence source said, calling it a “mini collision.”

“It was an accident,” the source said, adding the Limnos was not damaged. It subsequently took part in a joint military exercise with France off Crete on Thursday morning, the person said.

In Switzerland on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Athens needs to act with reason and called on the European Union to stop “pampering” Greece ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting to discuss the issue later on Friday.

Greece “should not attempt to provoke Oruc Reis like it did two days ago or it will receive a response,” he said, adding the European Union should not give it “unconditional support.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the naval Kemal Reis had fended off an attack by Greek vessels and also warned of retaliation.

Relations between Greece and Turkey have long been fraught with tension. Disputes have ranged from boundaries of offshore continental shelves and airspace to the ethnically split island of Cyprus. In 1996 they almost went to war over ownership of uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea.

In a call with Erdogan on Thursday, European Council President Charles Michel recalled the EU’s full solidarity with Greece, an EU official said. Michel called for de-escalation of tensions, said provocations should be avoided and added that dialogue is preferred, the official added.

Cavusoglu said Switzerland had offered to mediate the dispute between Turkey and Greece and that Ankara had agreed to this in principle.

Additional reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Spicer
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source:. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-...n-ankara-calls-provocative-idUSKCN25A161?il=0
 

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The Greek navy taking part in a military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on August 25, 2020.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Greece on Wednesday not to test his country’s patience or courage, further stoking tensions between the NATO allies over offshore energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Erdogan’s tough words came despite mediation efforts by Germany, whose foreign minister conducted shuttle diplomacy between Athens and Ankara a day earlier in a bid to deescalate the situation as Turkey and Greece engaged in competing military exercises at sea.
The neighboring countries are locked in an acrimonious dispute over maritime boundaries and offshore energy rights. They have sent warships to shadow each other in the eastern Mediterranean and held military exercises within a broad area between Crete and Cyprus where Turkey has a vessel conducting drilling research.
“Turkey will take what is its right in the Mediterranean, in the Aegean and in the Black Sea,” Erdogan said. “Just as we have no eyes over anyone’s territory, sovereignty and interests, we will never compromise on what belongs to us. We are determined to do whatever is necessary in political, economic and military terms.
Erdogan added: “We invite our interlocutors to get their act together and to avoid mistakes that will lead to their ruin.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas appealed to both Greece and Turkey on Tuesday to enter a dialogue and defuse the tensions, warning that “any spark, however small, could lead to a disaster.” His visits came ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Berlin later this week, at which Turkey will be discussed.
After talks with Maas, the foreign ministers of both Greece and Turkey signaled readiness for dialogue but blamed each other for the standoff.

Waters near Cyprus also at issue

The Turkish vessel Oruc Reis has for weeks been carrying out seismic research escorted by Turkish warships. Greece, which says the ship is operating over the country’s own continental shelf in an area where it has exclusive rights on potential undersea gas and oil deposits, sent warships to shadow the Turkish flotilla.
Turkey disputes Greece’s claims, insisting that small Greek islands near the Turkish coast should not be taken into account when delineating maritime boundaries. Ankara accuses Athens of trying to grab an unfair share of the eastern Mediterranean’s resources.
Turkey is also prospecting for hydrocarbons in waters where Cyprus claims exclusive economic rights. Ankara says it is protecting its rights and those of Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically-divided island.
Erdogan was speaking during celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1071 battle of Manzikert, during which Turkish Seljuks beat Byzantine forces, gaining entry into Anatolia.
 

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The United Arab Emirates is once again deploying its air force in support of allied countries that share its strong opposition to Turkey’s attempts to extend its military reach in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya.
uae.jpg


The UAE is sending between two and four warplanes to the Greek island of Crete for joint training exercises with the Hellenic Air Force following talks between senior Greek and Emirati military officials.
The UAE’s air force previously participated in military exercises in Greece in 2019, with Emirati pilots flying alongside their Israeli counterparts, among others.
What’s notable about this deployment, however, is its timing. France has also just sent two Dassault Rafale jets to Crete in a show of support to Greece as its dispute with Turkey over gas and oil exploration and drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean and the delineation of maritime boundaries escalates.

Turkey recently sent warships to escort a research ship for a drilling survey in waters claimed exclusively by Greece.
On August 14, one of these warships suffered a minor collision with a Hellenic Navy warship that the Greek side said was an accident. On August 22, Turkish air and naval forces carried out exercises in the Aegean Sea that included F-16 jets in a show of force.

Turkey has a significantly larger air force than the UAE, as well as Greece, that consists of over 200 F-16s and 40 F-4 Phantoms. The UAE has over 70 F-16s and about 60 French-built Mirage 2000s. While smaller, the Emirati fleet flies more advanced F-16s than the Turks: the Block 60 one-seater E and two-seater F variants built especially for the UAE air force.
French-made Mirage 2000 (top) and US-mad

French-made Mirage 2000 (top) and US-made F-16 fighter jets of the UAE Air Force take part in joint ... [+]
Turkey and the UAE have been locked in an increasingly bitter cold war in recent years.
Turkey’s incumbent ruling party, alongside its close ally Qatar, is a strong supporter and patron of Muslim Brotherhood groups across the region. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, strongly oppose the Brotherhood and support regimes that suppress it, such as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime in Egypt. Both countries also began blockading Qatar in July 2017. Turkey and the UAE have also been on the polar opposite sides of regional proxy conflicts, most notably the one in Libya.
The UAE’s decision to send some fighter jets to demonstrate its support of Greece in its dispute with Turkey is another example of Abu Dhabi’s consistent opposition to Ankara’s regional policies in this multi-front cold war.
UAE allies Egypt and France also strongly oppose Turkey’s policies in the Eastern Mediterranean and support Greece. These policies also include Turkey’s drilling for natural gas in the Republic of Cyprus’ economic exclusion zone (EEZ) and its agreement with Libya’s U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) to create an EEZ that claims huge swathes of the Mediterranean between their two distant coasts.
In the Libyan conflict, the UAE sent some of its Chinese-built Wing Loong II armed drones to support the GNA’s adversary, the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar. Turkey responded by deploying drones of its own in Libya that decisively helped the GNA turn the tide against LNA, which had hitherto besieged the GNA in the capital Tripoli for 14 months.
UAE fighter jets may well have carried out some airstrikes using its fighter jets during different stages of the Libyan conflict, although this hasn’t been conclusively confirmed.
In early July 2020, Turkey began deploying MIM-23 Hawk medium-altitude air defense missiles in the western GNA-controlled al-Watiya airbase when they were suddenly targeted and damaged in an airstrike. The aircraft that launched that strike likely used standoff missiles to maintain their distance from the base and avoid being shot down, which might also explain the confusion over their origin.
UAE, UAE AIr Force, Dassault Mirage 2000

An example of a Mirage 2000 belonging to the United Arab Emirates Air Force.
STAFF SGT. AARON ALLMON, USAF
Those jets could well have belonged to the UAE. After all, Abu Dhabi deployed no fewer than six of its Mirage 2000 jets to Sidi Barrani airbase near the Egyptian-Libyan border. UAE Mirages are also known to have come equipped with an export version of the long-range Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missile, which could certainly have carried out that kind of strike.
That being said, Egypt also possesses Storm Shadow missiles for its more modern French-built Dassault Rafale jets, so the UAE is certainly not the only possible suspect in that strike.
In early July 2019, almost a year to the day before the al-Watiya attack, a powerful airstrike destroyed a migrant center in Tripoli killing dozens of people. The Interior Minister of the GNA, Fathi Bashaagha, blamed the UAE, claiming it carried out the attack with one of its F-16s.
Even earlier, in 2014, the Pentagon said it believed that Egypt and the UAE had carried out secret airstrikes in Libya, something Cairo and Abu Dhabi denied.
Today, it’s still highly unlikely Turkey and the UAE jets will clash. Nevertheless, such a possibility cannot be totally dismissed out of hand so long as both rivals continuously find themselves facing each other down in tense flashpoints like the Eastern Mediterranean and volatile conflict zones like Libya.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulid...o-support-allies-against-turkey/#342c616427e1
 
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Turkey issues new Navtex for gunnery exercise in Eastern Mediterranean

TCG Barbaros frigate, TCG Burgazada corvette and USS Winston S. Churchill conduct naval training exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean on Aug. 26, 2020 (AA Photo)
TCG Barbaros frigate, TCG Burgazada corvette and USS Winston S. Churchill conduct naval training exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean on Aug. 26, 2020 (AA Photo)



Turkey issued a new navigational telex (Navtex) to carry out live-fire gunnery exercises in Eastern Mediterranean through Sept. 1-2.
Antalya Navtex station made the statement on Thursday, according to the Turkish Naval Forces Office for Navigation, Hydrography and Oceanography (OHNO).
"Turkey’s recent Navtex alert on gunnery drill has to do with security and safety off coast of İskenderun in Eastern Mediterranean," Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told Anadolu Agency's Editor's Desk.

https://www.dailysabah.com/politics...for-gunnery-exercise-in-eastern-mediterranean
 

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Turkey determined and able to protect its own rights

Turkey is happy to welcome Greek officials if they seek dialogue on maritime issues, says Turkish defense minister

'Turkey determined and able to protect its own rights'




ANKARA
Trying to test Turkey's power would be unwise, said the nation’s defense minister on Thursday, reiterating that it is both determined and able to protect its own rights and interests.
Everyone should know that the Turkish Republic has truly become a player on the international stage, Hulusi Akar told Anadolu Agency's Editors' Desk.
Akar spoke on a range of issues, including Turkey’s rising international profile and its stance on tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Navtex maritime alert Turkey issued on Sunday was to ensure the safety of its naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean during a training off the coast of Iskenderun, southern Turkey, said Akar.
Greece had criticized the alert and the next day issued a competing Navtex for maritime drills, in the process raising tension in the region.
On disputes over maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, Akar stressed that Turkey has no designs on anyone's land or sea, but the country will not allow any attack on its territory from its neighbors' lands or seas.
On Turkey's borders in the Eastern Mediterranean, he explained: “We said what would happen if you violated them. But we always stress that we favor dialogue."
Against Greece’s “maximalist” maritime claims, trying to confine Turkey to shore based on small Greek islands just off the Turkish coast, Turkey has sought dialogue to reach fair sharing through a win-win approach.

Turkey would welcome Greek officials seeking dialogue
"Turkey favors dialogue [on maritime issues], we want peace, but we also want our rights," said Akar, stressing Turkey's desire for dialogue.
Turkey would be happy to welcome its Greek counterparts if they decide to sit down and talk, he added.
"Turkey's power should not be tested," said Akar, reiterating that Turkey is determined and able to protect its own rights and interests.
Dialogue over the Eastern Mediterranean should be the first option, otherwise undesirable situations could follow, he cautioned.
Turkey has consistently opposed Greek efforts to declare a huge exclusive economic zone, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean.
Ankara has also said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) – which has issued Turkish state oil company Turkish Petroleum a license – and the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus.

French claim ship was harassed
"France's claims that Turkey harassed a French ship were proven false. France should apologize to the Turkish Republic," Akar said, referring to an incident this June near Libya.
Turkey said a NATO investigation of the incident proved its ships did nothing wrong.
Ankara has opposed French interference in the Mediterranean, including its support for Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar and favoring Greece’s expansive maritime claims.
Turkey expects France to act in line with reason and law in the region, he added.

Libya
Turning to Turkey's activities in Libya, Akar said: "Turkey is pursuing humanitarian and other activities in line with international law, and will continue doing so."
Last November, Turkey and Libya signed pacts on security cooperation and maritime boundaries.
Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya's new government was founded in 2015 under a political deal led by the UN.
Libya's internationally recognized government has been under attack by warlord Haftar's forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.
With Turkish support, Libya’s government has recently turned the tide against the forces of Haftar, while stressing that there is no military solution for Libya.

Turkey's fight with terrorism
"Turkey has neutralized 17,200 terrorists since July 2015," said Akar.
Turkey's only target is the terrorists, he added.
Turkey has launched several counter-terrorist military operations in recent years, especially against the YPG/PKK, which has tried to use northern Iraq and northern Syria as cross-border terrorist bases against Turkey.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian branch.

 

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Dialogue, de-escalation in E.Med benefit everyone: NATO

Situation in Eastern Med must be resolved with ‘allied solidarity,’ says NATO chief

Dialogue, de-escalation in E.Med benefit everyone: NATO



ANKARA
Meeting with the German chancellor on Thursday, NATO secretary-general reiterated “dialogue and de-escalation” to defuse the recent tension between Turkey and Greece over the offshore energy exploration.
“I am in constant touch with Greece and Turkey. My message is that the situation must be resolved in a spirit of allied solidarity, and in line with international law,” Jens Stoltenberg said in a joint news conference with Angela Merkel in Berlin.
“Dialogue and de-escalation are in everybody’s interest,” he added.
NATO chief also praised Germany’s efforts to “find a constructive way forward” on the issue.
Merkel for her part said Germany is uncomfortable with the tension between the two NATO allies in the Eastern Mediterranean and will discuss the right ways and opportunities to be followed in this regard.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday visited Greece and Turkey, encouraging both countries to engage in dialogue to avoid conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Apparently seeking to block Turkey’s legitimate maritime territorial claims, Greece signed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) deals with Italy on June 9 and with Egypt on Aug. 7.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry slammed the latter in a statement, asserting that Greece and Egypt share no sea borders and that the deal is “null and void.”
It added that the demarcated area in the pact is located in Turkey's continental shelf, as Ankara reported to the UN.

 

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It is important that everyone who reads this article sees the current and official state of affairs - not the one the European media has been projecting for the last 50 years, but the actual status quo:

- the 12 islands (yellow)
- islands ceded to Greece after the war in the Balkans (turquoise)
- the islands granted in the treaty of Lausanne (pink)
- controversial islands (red)

to be noted here, the illegally, in breach of treaty, armed or militarized islands...
 

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