French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that Paris will reinforce its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in conjunction with other European states, including Greece. The military boost will include the French frigate "Lafayette" and two Rafale fighter jets.
The military redeployment announcement came soon after a telephone call between the French president and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The latter hailed the news by calling Macron "a true friend" of the country and a "fervent protector of European values and international law". Mitsotakis' high praise of Paris comes as the country is engaged in tensions with Turkey over gas and oil exploration in the disputed waters near Cyprus.
Redeployment Amid 'Risk of Accident'
The escalation happened after Turkey, which claims rights to part of the waters of the exclusive economic zone between the islands of Crete and Cyprus, sent a seismic research vessel escorted by military ships to find hydrocarbon fields in the region on 10 August. Athens, who strongly opposes Ankara's territorial claims, in turn, sent out its own warships with the two countries' navies shadowing each other in the disputed waters.
Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis cautioned about the "risk of an accident'' happening in an explosive situation like this, but warned that "no provocation will go unanswered". He called to return to a dialogue about the issue, even if it would be "the toughest" matter. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan also separately urged to resolve the conflict through dialogue.
"The path to a solution in the eastern Mediterranean is via dialogue and negotiation. We are not chasing any unnecessary adventures or seeking tensions", he said.
The most recent dispute between the two countries emerged in February 2018, when Ankara announced plans to explore and drill in the waters near Cyprus, which it sees as its exclusive economic zone – a claim that is disputed by the Greek government. As part of this dispute, Turkey used its military vessels to prevent some foreign research ships from approaching the said waters, while sending its own seismic research craft to detect potentially profitable offshore oil and gas fields.