Tensions mount as Turkey shadows Greek research ship off Cyprus

Turkey Turkish Navy ship

EXPRESS - TURKEY has ramped up tensions with Greece and Cyprus, with its warships shadowing a Maltese ship licensed by Athens to do exploratory work for the East Med pipeline.

The National Geo research ship is continuing exploratory activities for the pipeline's possible sea route on behalf of Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

But it has reportedly been followed closely by warships from Turkey at a distance of half a mile after entering Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias stressed “Greece must break the stereotype of a Balkan Turkish-central provincialism in its foreign policy” and it must “open its wings to the new reality.”

He added while the country's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis complained of “unlawful” Turkish provocations out to sea, Greece must be careful and implement international laws as a deterrent.

The foreign minister also made reference to the country's plan to cooperate with more regional organisations, including SICA, which concerns countries in Central America.

Greece has been embroiled in tensions with neighbouring Turkey over a range of issues, including Turkey's claims over hydrocarbon resources in Greek maritime space in the Aegean Sea and demands to demilitarise islands whilst also threatening to invade them.

Earlier this week, Greece signed a deal with France to buy three new frigates in an agreement reportedly worth as much as €5billion (£4.3billion).

Under the deal, Greece has the option to buy a fourth frigate from France.

This year, it had already ordered 24 assault-made Rafale fighter jets meaning it became the first member state from the European Union to buy the warplane.

The strategic defence and security cooperation pact signed by the two countries is also part of increased efforts to ramp up European military autonomy.

French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking alongside Greek leader Mitsotakis at a news conference, said: "It contributes to European security, to the strengthening of Europe's strategic autonomy and sovereignty, and thus to international peace and security."

READ MORE: Greece and France take first step towards European independence following AUKUS debacle.