Turkish military authorities have boosted their presence in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), dispatching the frigate Barbaros and three corvettes.
The continued tensions come ahead of Cyprus’ legitimate exploration activities to be undertaken by American oil giant Exxon, which will run through April 20.
At the same time, the US and Israel who are stakeholders with Cyprus in the exploration activities are running joint military exercises in the region and watching over Turkish activity.
In this volatile climate, officials in Athens and Nicosia are also closely observing developments ahead of a scheduled meeting between European Union and Turkish leaders in Varna, Bulgaria, on March 26. If Turkey ups the ante further, it is not out of the question that Greece and Cyprus may seek to veto the meeting.
Statements by both Greek and Turkish officials over the weekend underscored the spike in tensions. In an interview with French daily Liberation, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos declared that “Greece is very close to a fatal accident with Turkey,” referring to Turkish violations of Greek air space and territorial waters.
“We are obliged to defend our territory which is not only Greek but also European,” he said. Late last week, meanwhile, Kammenos had referred to two Greek soldiers being detained in Turkey as “hostages.”