Mediterranean nations express 'full support and solidarity' to Greece, Cyprus in East Med crisis

(Updates with Med7 joint declaration in the first and third paragraphs)

The foreign ministers of Med7, comprised of Greece, Cyprus, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain, issued a joint declaration on Thursday after their summit on the French island of Corsica, expressing full support and solidarity towards Greece and Cyprus against Turkish violation of their sovereign rights in the eastern Mediterranean, Kathimerini reported.

The countries reiterated their commitment to open dialogue and cooperation with Turkey in essential areas of joint interests and offered support to ongoing mediation efforts of EU High Representative Josep Borrell and Germany.

The joint declaration also expressed disappointment that Turkey has not responded to the EU's calls to Ankara to end its unilateral and what it called illegal actions in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean seas.

Meanwhile, Turkish public broadcaster TRT said on Thursday that Greece has been sending troops to the island of Rho, a small Greek island in the eastern Mediterranean near Kastellorizo, close to the Turkish coast.

The military activity was recorded by TRT, a team in Turkish coastal town of Kaş caught the movement of troops on a telephoto-zoom lens, Karar newspaper said.

Last week, Athens sent troops to Kastellorizo, a move branded by Turkey as unacceptable and a violation of international law. Kastellorizo island has been deemed a demilitarised zone under the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.

Tension has risen between Turkey and Greece after Ankara sent a research vessel escorted by Turkish warships to a disputed area between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete on Aug. 10.

Athens responded to the move by sending naval and air units to push back the Oruç Reis and conducting military drills with Cyprus and France in the area, creating a standoff at risk of escalating into a direct confrontation with Turkey.

TRT's allegations came as the meeting of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee was continuing. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey was "ready for unconditional dialogue" with Greece and the European Union. However, he said the bloc did not have jurisdiction over maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean and he urged EU impartiality in Ankara's dispute with Athens.

Kader Sevinç, Turkish main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) representative in Brussels called attention to Çavuşoğlu's participation in the meeting via videoconference while Greek officials were physically at the meeting.

"The meeting was extremely useless, there was no open dialogue. Our presentation was rich in content but poor in technical and unfortunately communication. It is also thought-provoking that Çavuşoğlu is in Senegal instead of attending this meeting in person," she said.

Meanwhile, Greece reinstated that EU leaders should impose "severe" economic sanction on Turkey for a limited time if Ankara does not defuse tension in the region and remove its military vessels, as well as gas drilling ships, fro waters off Cyprus.

 “The sanctions should put this pressure, to be severe, for a limited time, but severe, in order to send the message that Europe is here to negotiate but is also here to defend its values,” Miltiadis Varvitsiotis told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee. 

EU leaders will hold a special summit on Sept. 24-25 to discuss how to resolve the crisis between Cyprus and Turkey over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.