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France to boost military presence in East Mediterranean

August 13, 2020 at 8:00 am

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speak following their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on 29 January 2020. [LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images]

France said Wednesday that it will temporarily increase its military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, Anadolu reports.

President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis discussed the latest situation in the region, Macron’s office said in a statement.

Underlining the importance of settling disputes through dialogue, Macron drew attention to the need for “greater consultation” between Greece and Turkey and welcomed a mediation initiative by Germany.

He has also decided “to temporarily strengthen the French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming days,” in cooperation with France’s European Union partners, said the statement.

As part of the country’s hydrocarbon surveying activities, Turkey issued a NAVTEX (navigational telex) on Aug. 10, 2020, announcing that the Oruc Reis would begin conducting fresh seismic research in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s decision came following a controversial delimitation deal signed between Greece and Egypt, only a day after Turkey said it would postpone its activities in the region as a sign of goodwill after dialogue efforts from Germany.

READ: Turkey rejects Macron’s sanctions threat 

But after declaring the deal “null and void,” Turkey authorized the Oruc Reis to continue its activities in an area that is within Turkey’s continental shelf.

The ship will continue seismic activities in the Eastern Mediterranean along with the Cengiz Han and Ataman until Aug. 23.

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area.

In 1974, following a coup aimed at Cyprus’s annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.

The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries — Turkey, Greece and the UK — came to an end without any progress in 2017 in Switzerland.

Turkey’s decision to announce new exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean raised alarms in Greece on Monday as Athens responded with its own notice and by placing its navy on alert.