Tensions rise in the Eastern Mediterranean as Turkey and Greece argue over gas
Turkey sent five war ships to protect an exploration ship designed to hunt for undersea oil and gas. The Limnos, an elderly Greek war ship, whose job it is to protect Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone from such things, watched from a distance. On August 12th, they clashed.
Both governments tried to keep the incident a secret, but Greek navy officials soon told local news websites. “We have fewer and older ships, but we protected Greece’s maritime rights,” one veteran naval officer boasted.
Greece’s defence minister is rumoured to have congratulated the captain of the Limnos. “If this goes on, we will retaliate,” thundered Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president. “We shall not leave either the dead or the living of our kin alone.” France’s president, Emanuel Macron, said that he had to “temporarily reinforce” France’s military presence in the region with two fighter jets and a pair of warships in order to “make sure that international law is respected.”
Tension between Greece and Turkey is not new. The two countries came to the brink of war in 1996 over the islands in the Aegean Sea, and the countries continue to argue over them. Greece claims that Turkish warplanes flew into its airspace over 3,000 times in 2017.
The two countries also disagree over Cyprus, which was split in two after a Turkish invasion in 1974. The current issue, however, is part of a larger problem. Tensions are growing in the eastern Mediterranean over energy, security and ideology. Turkey is against a broad coalition of European and Middle Eastern rivals in various battles stretching from Libya to Syria. As countries begin to scramble for resources, international tensions will continue to rise.