Turkey plans fiery Mediterranean exercise on symbolic Greek holiday – region on brink

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Greek Government spokesman Stelios Petsas has confirmed Turkey is pressing ahead with a maritime exercise on a national holiday in Greece in just two days’ time, amid growing tensions between the two nations. Relations between Athens and Ankara have worsened in recent months following the discovery of large energy reserves in a disputed region of the eastern Mediterranean.

The latest development also comes just 48 hours after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said planned military exercises on Greek and Turkish national holidays had been cancelled.

This afternoon, Mr Petsas condemned the actions of Turkey and branded Ankara an “unreliable” partner in negotiations.

He added: “Over the last few days, Turkey has been making a persistent effort to prove that not only is it a troublemaker in our wider region, but it is also a completely unreliable interlocutor.”

The military drill is set to take place on October 28, a date also known as ‘Ochi Day’, which celebrates Greek Independence.

On October 28, 1940, Greece rejected the advances of German-backed Italian forces and officially entered World War Two.

The maritime dispute between the two nations was sparked in August, when Turkey sent a seismic research vessel near to the location of hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greek officials insist the Oruc Reis vessel entered waters owned by Greece and Cyprus – a claim rejected by Turkey.

In the wake of the marine dispute, Greece announced plans to extend the western limit of its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea to 12 miles – a move condemned by Turkey.

Last month, the two sides had agreed to end a four-year hiatus and restart exploratory talks, but discussions have since broke down.

Ankara insists Athens has no right to intervene in its activity more than nine miles (15km) from its mainland in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey has refused to back down and has since extended the seismic survey work in the region until next month.

According to a Turkish naval maritime notice, the Oruc Reis, along with two other ships, will remain in the contested waters until November 4.

A previous notice scheduled the survey work in the area would be completed by October 27.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said the extension of the survey was an “illegal move”.

In a statement, the ministry added: “Greece blatantly condemns this unacceptable behaviour, which is essentially moving even further away from the prospect of a constructive dialogue.”

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The Turkish foreign ministry said the accusations were “baseless” and the area is within Turkey’s continental shelf.

In a statement, the Turkish ministry insisted it was ready to get back to the negotiating table with Greece.

It added: “We expect Greece to desist from setting pre-conditions and creating artificial reasons for not entering into dialogue with our country.”

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