Turkish, Greek defence officials to meet over code of conduct in Aegean

Defence officials from Turkey and Greece are slated to hold talks over issues related to the Aegean Sea in Athens on May 20-25, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

"The Technical meeting between the delegations of the Turkish and Greek Ministries of National Defence, to enhance the cooperation especially in Confidence Building Measures and Code of Conduct in the Aegean Sea, will be held in Athens on 20-25 May 2019," state-run Anadolu news agency quoted the ministry’s statement as saying.

The extent of territorial waters, airspace and continental shelf are among the leading problems between the NATO allies in the Aegean Sea.

Tensions soared last October when Greece announced plans to double its territorial waters on the Ionian Sea to 12 nautical miles from the coast, with Turkish officials warning that doing the same in the Aegean Sea could be a cause for war.

On Saturday Anadolu shared footage from Turkish security sources showing a Greek assault vessel harassing a Turkish corvette during the country’s ongoing military exercise Sea Wolf (Denizkurdu) 2019.

Tensions between the two countries have also heightened in the Eastern Mediterranean over the past year, as Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus have stepped up gas exploration and drilling efforts. 

Cyprus was split between the Greek Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, after Turkey invaded the island in 1974. Turkey maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state recognised by only Ankara.

A decision by Turkey to drill in areas that that overlap with the Greek Cypriots' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was denounced by the United States and the EU.

EU’s Chief Negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier on Monday said the EU stands behind Cyprus and expects Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of EU member states, the Cyprus Mail reported. 

Barnier’s statement in Nicosia followed a briefing on Turkey’s activities in Cyprus’ EEZ by Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides during a visit to discuss Brexit.

“We urgently call on Turkey to show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone and refrain from any such illegal action to which the European Union will respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus,” the Cyprus Mail quoted Barnier as saying.