ATHENS -- Signaling the end of a summer truce called so as not to scare tourists away from both countries, Greece and Turkey are aligning for a showdown over rights to the seas and Turkey trying to block a possible route for the EastMed
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias briefed his European Union peers about Turkish warships only 10 nautical miles off Greece's second-largest island, Crete, where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said energy vessels would also operate.
The Malta-flagged Nautical Geo research vessel licensed by Greece is there and was warned off by the Turkish warships, unable to go ahead with work to map the sea route of the pipeline from Crete to Cyprus and Israel.
The EastMed pipeline, now in design, would transport natural gas from the off-shore gas reserves in the Levantine Basin into Greece, and in conjunction with the Poseidon and IGB pipelines into Italy and other European regions.
The EU has been reluctant to confront Erdogan, who continues to use the threat of sending more refugees and migrants to the bloc through Greece and its islands to get the bloc to back off.
Greece's New Democracy government has decided to extend the search of the Nautical Geo until Sept. 26, so that it could move further east, despite the constant radio harassment from Turkish frigates, said Kathimerini.
Greece and Egypt – in response to a deal between Turkey and Libya dividing the seas between them, which no other country recognizes – struck a deal to also hunt for energy in the same disputed seas.
The big question, the paper said, is whether the Nautical Geo will test Turkey's warnings and if it would be accompanied by a Greek warship or other vessels to protect it, raising the risk of a conflict again.
Greece has decided, the paper said, to send a Coast Guard vessel and a warship was also dispatched after the Turkish frigate the Gemlik was also sent off of Crete although Turkey has so far limited naval actions to warnings, but there's anxiety that could be stepped up to also trying to block exploration.