AFP : Turkey accused France on Friday of “acting like bullies” and stepped up its own charm offensive as EU foreign ministers met to address an emerging crisis in the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean.
The search for oil and gas in disputed waters not far from Cyprus has pitted Turkey against its uneasy NATO ally Greece and the entire EU bloc.
Turkey’s decision to send a seismic vessel accompanied by a small navy fleet in search for gas in the increasingly volatile region on Monday prompted Greece to dispatch in its own military assets to observe.
France on Thursday also announced it was “temporarily reinforcing” its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in support of Greece.
That decision only further worsens France’s tensions with Turkey — already high because of opposing approaches to the Libya conflict and other parts of the Middle East — and saw the diplomatic rhetoric rise another notch.
“France especially should avoid steps that will increase tensions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on a visit to Geneva.
“They will not get anywhere by acting like bullies, whether in Libya, the northeast of Syria, in Iraq or the Mediterranean.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday underscored the fraught nature of the standoff by warning of a “heavy price” to pay for those who threaten Turkey’s Oruc Reis research ship.
“We can’t let even the smallest attack go without an answer,” Erdogan reaffirmed on Friday.
Erdogan said “there was something like this” that happened on Thursday but provided no details.
“The Oruc Reis gave the necessary response. And then they withdrew to their ports,” Erdogan said without specifying which nation’s ships allegedly attacked Turkey’s.
The Greek defence ministry denied being involved in any incident with the Oruc Reis.
Cavusoglu insisted that Turkey was looking for a peaceful solution to the crisis and was only expecting “common sense” from Greece.
“Of course we do not wish to escalate, but Greece should act with common sense,” said Cavusoglu.
“We are always on the side of peaceful dialogue.”