Against the background of the gas dispute between Ankara and Athens, Greece, France, Italy and Cyprus are holding a joint military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean. The maneuver off the coast of Crete will last from Wednesday to Friday, the Greek Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday. Because of the increasing tensions with Athens, Ankara has also sent the Turkish Navy to the region to secure Turkish gas and oil test wells.
Since the discovery of rich gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, including off the coast of Cyprus, there has been a heated dispute over their exploitation. Both the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey and Greece lay claim to the relevant sea areas.
Most recently, Ankara sent an exploration ship accompanied by naval ships to the Greek island of Kastellorizo off the Turkish coast to explore gas and oil deposits there. Greece sees the explorations in its territorial waters as a violation of its sovereignty.
In talks with his counterparts in Athens and Ankara on Tuesday, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) warned of an escalation with regard to the gas dispute and promoted dialogue between the two NATO countries. “The current situation is playing with fire and every spark, no matter how small, can lead to a catastrophe,” said Maas.
The conflict is also the subject of the meeting of EU defense ministers this Wednesday in Berlin. Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) wanted to discuss the tensions with Turkey in bilateral talks with her colleagues from Cyprus and Greece in the run-up to the conference starting at 1 p.m.