Istanbul, 14 August 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday warned Greece against escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, where a Turkish gas exploration vessel resumed gas exploration operations this week.
“We have told [Greece] if you attack our Oruc Reis, you will pay a heavy price. And they got their first answer today,” Erdogan told party members in Ankara, referring to the vessel.
He did not provide further details.
The vessel, accompanied by warships, will continue operations until August 23 south of the Greek island of Megisti, close to the Turkish mainland, Erdogan said.
NATO allies Turkey and Greece are at odds over exploration for hydrocarbon resources in the area. Greece and the EU claim Turkey’s drilling in the region is illegal. Turkey claims the area is within its exclusive economic zone.
Erdogan‘s remarks follow unconfirmed reports in Greek media of a collision between Turkish and Greek ships in the eastern Mediterranean.
According to some reports, a Greek frigate hit the side of a Turkish ship escorting the Oruc Reis. There was no immediate official reaction.
Turkey wants to resolve the dispute through “dialogue” and on the basis of “international law,” Erdogan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the phone, according to his office.
Merkel in July brokered talks between Ankara and Athens, convincing Turkey to temporarily pause drilling in the area.
Ankara resumed its energy exploration on Monday following a deal between Greece and Egypt setting out rights to drill for oil and gas in the area.
The foreign ministers of the EU states will discuss the issue in an special video conference on Friday.
France, meanwhile, said it was boosting its military presence in the region following a phone call between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday.
Greek state television reported extensive maneuvers by Greek and French warships south of the Greek island of Crete on Thursday.