Just when it seemed that Greece and Turkey were entering a phase of de-escalation, the two countries appeared on Monday to be heading for another crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The decision by Ankara for an extension of the duration of exploratory activities by the Oruc Reis survey vessel in areas within the Greek continental shelf prompted a response by Athens with Tuesday's aeronautical exercise that begins on Tuesday at dawn over a large area from the south of Kassos to the south of Kastellorizo.
The exercise will take place in areas included in the navigational advisory, or Navtex, issued by Turkey for the Oruc Reis within the Greek continental shelf. The exercise will last until Thursday night.
Turkey’s move to extend the activities of the Oruc Reis essentially raises obstacles to the German mediation effort which continues on Tuesday with visits to both Athens and Ankara by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Meanwhile, tensions were further augmented on Monday night by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who issued direct war threats against Greece, which he said is being “deceived” by other countries into pursuing the course of action it is taking.
“When an issue arises in the future, then these forces will disappear and Greece will be left alone,” he said, adding that “from now on, Greece will be responsible for all conflicts in the region and it will be at a disadvantage.” He also described the aeronautical exercise announced by Athens as “useless” and dangerous for navigation.
Shortly before Erdogan’s remarks, Ankara announced new exercises off southern Crete for Tuesday morning, in an area several miles south of the prefecture of Lassithi. The area is located approximately on the borders described in the Turkey-Libya maritime borders memorandum.
At the same time, Athens is building a network of important military collaborations, as joint exercises are also expected with French Rafale jets based in Cyprus.
Furthermore, in the coming days, all four F-16s of the United Arab Emirates currently stationed at Souda on Crete will conduct training exercises not only with the Hellenic Air Force, but also with the Hellenic Navy.
Also in the next few days, a major naval exercise will begin, including Greece, France, Italy and Cyprus in the wider Eastern Mediterranean region.