Turkey Claims Greece Attacked Research Vessel and Tells France to Back Off

This picture taken on August 23, 2019 in Istanbul shows a view of Turkish General Directorate of Mineral research and Exploration's (MTA) Oruc Reis seismic research vessel docked at Haydarpasa port, which searches for hydrocarbon, oil, natural gas and coal reserves at sea. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP) (Photo …
OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images

Turkish Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed Greek naval forces attacked a Turkish research vessel in the Mediterranean, while Greek media have labelled the story “fake news”.

President Erdogan claimed the Oruc Reis, a research vessel looking to conduct seismic surveys in Mediterranean territory Greece claims is part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), was attacked by Greek ships on Thursday.

Greek media, meanwhile, have said that Turkish claims of an attack were fake news. They added that while a Greek frigate had a collision with a Turkish vessel this week, the damage to Greece’s ship was minor despite alternative claims by the Turkish press that there had been extensive damage.

“If this continues, they will receive their answer in kind,” Erdogan said, while Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued a similar warning on Friday, Kathimerini reports.

Cavusoglu also warned the French government over a potential escalation of tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean after French President Emmanuel Macron announced France would be strengthening its naval presence in the area, citing Turkish behaviour.

“The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean is worrying. Turkey’s unilateral decisions on oil exploration are causing tensions,” Macron wrote on Twitter in Greek and French.

Mr Macron added: “I have decided to temporarily strengthen the French military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, in cooperation with European partners, including Greece.”

The European Union held an urgent meeting over the tensions between Turkey and Greece on Friday and expressed their full support for Greece and Cyprus. An extensive discussion on the issue is expected to take place at a summit at the informal Gymnich meeting later this month.

The situation in the Mediterranean began last month when Turkey issued a NAVTEX message indicating it would be conducting seismic research in an area Greece claims is part of its EEZ. Greece, in turn, put its own armed forces on alert following the NAVTEX.

Turkey has also seen heightened tension with other countries in the Mediterranean, including Egypt, which has threatened to deploy troops into Libya against the Turkish-backed Libyan militia groups.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)breitbart.com

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