The U.S. State Department has urged Turkey on Tuesday to halt any plans for operations in the Eastern Mediterranean and to avoid steps that raise tensions in the region.
A spokesperson issued a statement saying that the “United States is aware that Turkey has issued a NAVTEX for research in disputed waters in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We urge Turkish authorities to to halt any plans for operations in the Eastern Mediterranean and to avoid steps that raise tensions in the region,” the statement reads.
Earlier on Tuesday, Turkey issued a navigational telex (NAVTEX) announcing plans for a seismic survey south and east of the Greek island of Kastellorizo from July 21-August 2.
Turkey’s Oruc Reis seismic exploration ship is planned to arrive in the area.
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned that Turkey is threatening to violate the sovereignty of Greece and Europe.
“Greece is following the developments with confidence and absolute readiness. The questioning of the sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus constitutes a questioning of the sovereign rights of Europe. If Turkey continues in this direction, the imposition of sanctions by the EU will be a one-way street,” the Prime Minister said.
Defense sources in Athens fear that Turkey plans to ignite a general crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Such a crisis, they say, would aim at preventing the creation of an EEZ demarcation agreement between Greece and Egypt which is now on the negotiating table. In addition, they add, Ankara wants to exploit the perceived policy vacuum in the US which is heading toward its upcoming presidential elections.
Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos briefed US Defense Secretary Mark Esper during a scheduled phone conversation on Tuesday afternoon.
He told his US counterpart that said Greek navy ships were in the area and that “Greece is prepared to defend its sovereign rights if necessary,” according to a defense ministry press release.