Greece put its armed forces on alert on Tuesday after Turkey announced it would be engaging in a seismic survey in disputed waters and launched 15 Turkish naval vessels.
Turkey announced on Tuesday that the seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis will conduct the offshore survey.
The research will take place in the Eastern Mediterranean, in an area that Greece claims belongs to them, located off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports.
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Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff (GEETHA), Konstantinos Floros, returned a day early from Cyprus in response. The alert comes as Turkey and Greece have disagreed over exclusive economic zones (EEZ), with Greece recently discussing the creating of an EEZ with Egypt.
Turkey had announced in December 2019 that it would be creating its own EEZ with Libya, a move that both Greece and Cyprus viewed as void.
Earlier this month, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias made it clear that Greece would not stand for Turkey drilling in the Greek EEZ.
“Greece has a clear obligation and will defend its rights. We have nothing else to discuss or negotiate. Turkey must respect international and maritime law,” Dendias said.
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Tuesday also saw 82 violations of Greek airspace by 16 Turkish fighter jets, including eight virtual air battles between Turkish and Greek aircraft. A total of 14 of the violations took place in the area where the Oruc Reis plans to conduct its survey.
Tensions between Greece and Turkey have been at a heightened state for months, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opening the gates to Greece for tens of thousands of migrants in February before he was forced to close the border due to the coronavirus outbreak.
More recently, Erdogan’s government raised tensions with Greece again after announcing the Hagia Sophia, formerly the largest and most important church in Greek Orthodox Christianity, would be re-converted into a mosque after it had been converted into a museum in 1934.
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Turkey has also seen increased tensions with Egypt due to Turkish support for militia groups within neighbouring Libya.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said last month that his country was prepared to intervene with military force in Libya to maintain stability if Turkey’s allies cross a certain red line. “Those who interpreted our patience as weakness are mistaken,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Egyptian parliament gave President el-Sisi the green light to deploy Egyptian troops in Libya.