Turkey, Greece hold naval drills amid rising tensions

Istanbul, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- Two Turkish Army frigates and an Italian destroyer took part in naval exercises south of the Greek island of Crete on Tuesday, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.

The maneuvers were held barely 100 kilometers from the area where Greece was also holding its own naval drills amid heightened tensions between the two neighbors.

“Transition trainings were carried out by TCG Göksu and TCG Fatih frigates and Italian destroyer ITS Durand de la Penne on August 25, 2020 in order to improve interoperability and coordination in the Eastern Mediterranean,” a tweet from Turkey’s Defence Ministry said.

The statement was accompanied by four photographs of the warships at sea and in formation.

Turkey had said on Monday that it would begin staging the maneuvers with “allied navy ships” in response to an announcement by Athens that it would hold its own naval drills south of Crete in protest against Turkey’s intention to extend a seismic ship’s mission to search for gas and oil reserves in the area.

For the past two weeks, the Oruç Reis has been exploring the hydrocarbon-rich waters between Crete and Cyprus, an area that both Ankara and Athens claim as their own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, has traveled to both countries in an attempt to mediate and ease the rising tensions.

“The current situation in the eastern Mediterranean is equivalent to playing with fire,” Heiko Maas told reporters in Athens on Tuesday. “Every little spark can lead to catastrophe.”

Maas, who was meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias, was due to travel to Ankara later on Tuesday to meet with the Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu.

“What we now need absolutely and immediately are signals of de-escalation and a readiness for dialogue,” Maas said after reiterating Germany’s the EU’s “firm” backing of Greece’s territorial claim.

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