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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - French and Greek naval vessels have conducted joint exercises in the eastern Mediterranean in response to the ongoing encroachment by Turkish warships and a seismic research vessel in the area.
A short video released by Greece’s military on Thursday showed the Greek frigates carrying out manoeuvres with a French vessel and a French helicopter.
The exercises we meant to raise the forces’ operational readiness and combat capability, the Greek TV channel Skai reported.
The show of support from France at sea follows Paris’s commitment of two Rafale fighter jets and a naval frigate to bolster dozens of Greek ships already on high alert in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis thanked French President Emmanuel Macron as a “true friend of Greece” as well as a “fervent protector of European values and international law” after the pair spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Wednesday.
Mr Macron said after the call that he had decided to "temporarily reinforce the French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, in co-operation with European partners including Greece".
Diplomatic manoeuvrings have continued at pace before a meeting between EU ministers to discuss the eastern Mediterranean and a summit between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias, both on Friday.
The threat of sanctions hangs over Turkey after it sent its research vessel the Oruc Reis into contested Greek waters on Monday, accompanied by half a dozen warships.
Greece called for the extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss sanctions. Brussels has imposed such penalties on people linked to Ankara’s earlier drilling activities in the area.
Paris has also sought similar measures against Ankara in the weeks following a June incident in the Mediterranean between the two Nato allies’ naval vessels.
France has claimed its frigate the Courbet was harassed by a Turkish vessel while flagging a cargo ship suspected of transporting weapons to Libya.
France ultimately withdrew the Courbet from Nato’s mission in the Mediterranean over the disagreement.
Tensions in the eastern Mediterranean have exposed the divisions between Nato members and have been a perennial headache for the alliance.
When contacted by The National a spokesman for the treaty organisation indicated there had been no change in its position since Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called for the standoff to be resolved “in a spirit of allied solidarity and in accordance with international law” on Monday.
The dispute between Turkey and Greece stretches back decades and centres on areas bordering the many Greek islands in the region.
Turkey’s claims to the waters, which it says are on its continental shelf, repeatedly have been dismissed as illegal by Greece and its allies.
Renewed, competing claims by Greece and Turkey over the waters have crossed into the conflict in Libya.
In December Ankara and Libya’s Government of National Accord in Tripoli signed an agreement on maritime borders that favoured Turkey.
In exchange Ankara promised military support to the government in Tripoli.
Last week Greece and Egypt agreed on their own maritime border deal.
The UAE has thrown its weight behind the Greek-Egyptian deal while Turkey has railed against the Cairo accord, calling it a provocation.
Turkey has indicated it wants to return to the negotiating table over the competing claims to the resource-rich waters.
Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said on Thursday that the only solution to the dispute was through dialogue and negotiation. He added that Ankara was not chasing any "adventures" in the region.
At the same time, however, the Oruc Reis has continued to carry out surveys in the disputed waters, Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez said.
Mr Erdogan is to speak on Thursday with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Council President Charles Michel.
Updated: August 13, 2020 05:10 PM
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