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Greece presses for EU sanctions against Turkey amid maritime tussle
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Greece presses for EU sanctions against Turkey amid maritime tussle
Greece on Tuesday asked the European Union to hold an emergency meeting of the group's foreign ministers to press for sanctions against Turkey amid a new and dangerous tussle with its regional foe over energy and sea rights in the eastern Mediterranean. The office of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister, said the urgent request had been placed by the country’s foreign minister. Athens is scrambling to exhaust “all diplomatic options before resorting to the use of force,” to stop Turkish vessels from surveying a patch of the eastern Mediterranean which Athens insists it has exclusive rights to, according to a leading aide. While Nato allies, Greece and Turkey have long been at odds over land, sea and air rights, coming to the brink of war in 1996 over conflicting claims to a barren outcrop inhabited only by goats, rabbits and sheep. Now, 26 years later, tensions have flared up anew following Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision on Monday to order the research vessel Oruc Reis and two auxiliary ships to survey the continental shelf not far from that near-war region, south of the tiny island of Kastellorizo. Greek armed forces have since then been placed on red alert with battleships and submarines steaming to the region to shadow the Turkish vessels that plan according to a Navtex, or else, international maritime safety message issued by Ankara, to remain until Aug. 23. “Since they streamed in,” a senior defence ministry official told The Telegraph, “we have been transmitting messages to them every 15 minutes, telling them to pull back. “Those messages have not stopped and we are just an order away from the political leadership upping the ante to military action.” The region has become a dangerous flash point since massive oil and gas reserves were discovered in 2015, leading Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt to forge lucrative deals and alliances_without Turkey. Mr Erdogan insists Turkey should be allowed to share the gains. He recently lashed out at Greece and other countries in the region for “trying to imprison our country, which has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, [turning it] into a coastal strip from which you can only catch fish with a rod.” On Tuesday, the Foreign Office called on Greece and Turkey to pull back from escalating tension, saying the UK was committed to preserving stability in the region. In a similar standoff, last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel persuaded Mr Erdogan to hold off from dispatching the Oruc Reis, to the eastern Mediterranean. He agreed to negotiations with Athens but then pulled back, angered at Greece's decision to secretly sign a maritime deal with Egypt last week, limiting Ankara’s influence in the oil-and-mineral rich region even further.
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