French President Emmanuel Macron has sent warships to the Eastern Mediterranean to give support to Greece against Turkey’s quest for energy reserves in the region.
Together with Macron was Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was on a visit to the French capital Paris to gather support against Turkey. Mitsotakis welcomed the decision and described the warships as “guarantors of peace.”
“The only way to end differences in the eastern Mediterranean is through international justice,” he told reporters after holding talks with Macron. “Greece and France are pursuing a new framework of strategic defence.”
Tensions have increased significantly over the past year in the Eastern Mediterranean due to Turkey’s dispute with Southern Cyprus over the distribution of energy resources in the waters off the island of Cyprus.
In June last year, Turkey deployed drilling vessels to search for natural gas in retaliation to a deal struck by Greece, Southern Cyprus and Israel earlier that month, in which the three states agreed to build a pipeline harnessing the reserves of natural gas off the southern shores of the island. This pipeline – named EastMed – which is estimated to produce a profit of $9 billion over 18 years of the reserve’s exploitation, would be supplying gas from the Eastern Mediterranean region all the way to countries in Europe.
Turkey has called on those countries to participate in a fair and equal distribution of the energy resources discovered off Cyprus, insisting that they are attempting to exclude and alienate Turkey by striking their own deal without the consideration of both the major regional player and the people of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Therefore, it stresses that the drilling activities that Turkey is carrying out is legal and within territorial waters.
The EU, however, has repeatedly called on Turkey to give up its claim on having a share in the energy resources, claiming that its activities are “illegal”, leading to the Union to impose sanctions on the Republic in July last year over the issue, as well as due to Turkey’s military incursion – Operation Peace Spring – into northern Syria in October.
As France is one of the most prominent supporters of Greece in the dispute, Macron accused Turkey of being the one responsible for raising tensions as well as causing trouble in war torn Libya. “I want to express my concerns with regard to the behaviour of Turkey at the moment,” said Macron. “We have seen during these last days Turkish warships accompanied by Syrian mercenaries arrive on Libyan soil. This is an explicit and serious infringement of what was agreed in Berlin [conference]. It’s a broken promise.”
Greece itself has reportedly long been prepared for a military confrontation, with Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos recently warning that the country was “examining all scenarios, even that of military engagement.” This was shown with Greece’s arming of 16 Aegean islands last week, in violation of international law which stipulates that they remain demilitarised. When Turkey called on Greece to disarmed them and uphold international law, Greece refused.