Greece Says Won't Brook Turkey's Provocation, Holds Military Drills With France

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says the country will not succumb to threats and does not tolerate extortionist practices.

Amid escalating tensions between Nato allies Greece and Turkey, Athens has said no provocation from Ankara will go unanswered. The dire warning from the Greek Prime Minister came after Turkey sent its research vessel Oruc Reis to conduct seismic research near a Greek island in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Greece does not succumb to threats and does not tolerate extortionist practices, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. "We hope logic will finally prevail in our neighboring country so that honest dialogue can begin ... As a member of the European family and stability pillar in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece stays committed to the principles of International Law and the principles of good neighborly relations. Our country does not threaten and is not threatened by anyone," the prime minister added.

Simmering Tensions

Greece and Turkey have a troubled history of near serious confrontations and war-like faceoffs. The simmering tensions came to the fore in recent times after Turkey announced oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean parts claimed by Greece. In the latest move, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's nationalist government sent down the research vessel with the blessings of "83 million Turkish people."

US Navy
REPRESENTATIONAL - The guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) transits the Mediterranean Sea in this August 31, 2012 handout photo. Reuters

Huge reserves of gas were discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean in recent years, triggering a race between Greece and Turkey. The faultlines between Ankara and Athens aggravated after both sides claimed the rich resources in the Mediterranean.

In a sign of elevated risk, Turkish vessel Oruc Reis is escorted by warships even as Greece has also deployed warships to monitor the movement of Turkish ships. The Turkish move has also angered Egypt, which entered into a maritime border agreement over the Eastern Mediterranean with Greece.

"The risk of an accident lurks when so many naval forces gather in a limited area," the Greek prime minister said.

Greco-French Military Drill

Meanwhile, the Greek military held training exercises with French forces off the southern island of Crete on Thursday. The French armed forces also said it would send two Rafale fighter jets and the naval frigate 'Lafayette' to the eastern Mediterranean in view of the tensions.

The Greco-French war drill came after French President Emmanuel Macron asked Turkey to halt oil exploration in the Mediterranean. However, Turkey has pledged to go ahead with the exploration in the area between Greece and Cyprus. "Our efforts in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea for Turkey's energy independence will continue uninterrupted," Turkey's energy and natural resources minister said earlier this week.

Migrant Crisis

39 die as migrant boat sinks off turkish coast
Migrants are rescued by the Italian Navy in the Mediterranean Sea, in this picture released on January 28, 2016 by Italian Navy Reuters

Greece and Turkey are also at loggerheads with each other over the refugee influx. Thousands of Syrian immigrants are already staying on the Greek island of Lesbos, while several thousands more have massed around the border between Turkey and Greece. Analysts say that in the event of an escalation in the crisis, Turkey would open the borders, triggering a massive migrant flow into Greece.

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