Jun 09 2019

Greek ex-prime minister says crisis with Turkey is in the air

Former Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said a crisis with Turkey is always waiting at the corner and it is more possible than ever with the recent developments in East Mediterranean, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Sunday.

Simitis said the situation had changed with the discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and an "Imia crisis", which emerged from a dispute between Ankara and Athens over the sovereignty of uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea, was likely to surface again.

Tensions between Turkey and Greece have escalated over the last year as both sides have stepped up efforts for gas drilling in the East Mediterranean, which also revived the dispute over maritime borders. 

Turkey also opposes what it calls Cyprus governments unilateral efforts for exploring the hydrocarbon reserves of the island saying it ignores the fair share of the Turkish Cypriots in the north part of the island, a breakaway state only recognised by Turkey.

“Greek Cypriots are in violation of the rights of Turkish Cypriots, who have an equal say on the natural resources of the island,” foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Friday.

Ankara has recently also sought to block exploration of gas by the Greek Cypriot government off Cyprus with warships and military exercise plans, prompting criticism from Greece, the European Union and the United States. 

“We’ve made clear to Turkey that we consider the actions that Turkey has undertaken in terms of its announced intentions to begin drilling as provocative and we have encouraged Turkey to stop those actions,” Matthew Palmer, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, said on Saturday in an interview with Cyprus New Agency.