Turkey extends East Med exploration, sparks tensions with France

Author : Mircea Birca | Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Posted in category Eurasia, Middle Orient, Turkey
Comments Off on Turkey extends East Med exploration, sparks tensions with France

France gives Turkey two months to change East Med policies, recalls ambassador over Erdogan’s remarks about Macron.

Turkey announced late Saturday that it is extending by one week a gas exploration mission in the eastern Mediterranean that has caused tensions with Greece.

In a fresh notice to shipping in the area, Turkey said the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel, accompanied by two support ships, will operate in the area south of the Greek island of Rhodes until Nov. 4. An earlier notice had said the ships would be operating in the area until Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Ankara had dispatched the Oruc Reis along with several warships in August to waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus, sparking a dispute that threatened a military confrontation between the NATO allies. The mission drew condemnation from the European Union.

The vessel was withdrawn for maintenance earlier this month as a diplomatic solution was sought, but it was later redeployed to the region with two support supply ships.

Turkey in the past has dispatched exploratory missions for oil and gas reserves in waters that Cyprus claims as its own.

In another development, France gave Turkey two months to change its policies in the East Med region.

A French Elysee official told AFP that Erdogan had two months to reply to the demands for a change in stance and that it ends its “dangerous adventures” in the eastern Mediterranean and “irresponsible conduct” over Karabakh where Ankara is strongly backing Baku.

“Measures need to be taken by the end of the year,” said the official.

On Saturday France said it was recalling its envoy to Turkey for consultations after “unacceptable” comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioning the mental health of French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

France and its NATO ally are at loggerheads over a range of issues including maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria and most recently the escalating conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

But Ankara has now launched a campaign against Macron after measures and stances he has taken against Islamists following the murder this month of a teacher who showed his class a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.

“President Erdogan’s comments are unacceptable. Excess and rudeness are not a method. We demand that Erdogan change the course of his policy because it is dangerous in every respect,” a French presidential official told AFP.

In a highly unusual move, the official added that the French ambassador to Turkey was being recalled for consultations and would meet Macron to discuss the situation.

The Elysee official, who asked not to be named, also said that France had noted “the absence of messages of condolence and support” from the Turkish president after the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty outside Paris.

Erdogan earlier slammed Macron over his policies toward France’s Islamists, saying that, “Macron needs mental treatment.”

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