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Politics

Greek Navy Blockading Kastellorizo Against Turkish Energy Ship

Hoping to avoid a conflict with shots fired, Greece's Navy is positioning warships around the island of Kastellorizo to prevent a Turkish energy vessel and battle ships from entering Greek waters to begin a hunt for oil and gas.

That came under a Code Orange Alert, said The Voice of America (VOA) in a report about the building tension and stand-off that threatens to escalate as the European Union has taken a hands-off approach.

Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis pulled back demands for EU sanctions to give diplomacy a chance but scrapped joining planned talks in Ankara – not Athens – after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said ships off Kastellorizo for a third time. 

While Mitsotakis said he still prefers a diplomatic solution, Erdogan, seeing the EU back off, has become more belligerent and Greece's Navy was said to be prepared for battle stations if necessary. 

The United States had supported Greece although President Donald Trump is close to Erdogan, who apparently has seized the moment during the run-up to the US Presidential election to strike with his plans for an energy hunt off Greek islands, including Crete where the US Navy has a base.

Greece’s Defense Ministry  released pictures of what Greek officials called a “protective wall,”  while military officials told that Greek gunboats circled Kastellorizo and uninhabited islands to keep Turkey's Oruc Reis from seismic research.

The Turkish ships were nearing Kastellorizo, which at one point is less than two miles from Turkey's coast as Greece said it plans to expand its territorial waters from six to 12 miles.

That has infuriated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who doesn't recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne setting boundaries between the countries and as he has openly coveted return of some islands given to Greece.

The alert was issued after the Oruc Reis was 14 kilometers off Kastellorizo approaching from another direction before it got closer, pushing the Greek Navy into action, with more than 60 ships monitoring the Turkish ships there.

Turkey claims some Greek waters under a maritime deal with Libya that no other country recognizes, Greece countering with a similar agreement with Egypt which led Erdogan to cancel a first planned round of talks.

State Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis warned that any breach of Greek sovereignty will be met with force and that Greece won't allow Turkey to drill in Greek waters and defend its sovereignty.

Alexis Papachelas, Managing Editor and a commentator on defense and foreign policy for the newspaper Kathimerini said he was concerned that Turkey is trying to goad Greece into taking the first shot to justify a military response.

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