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19 July, 2019
 
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Rising tensions in the Aegean

Greek armed forces on standby for Turkish moves in East Med, Aegean

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

By Vassilis Nedos

As Turkey continues with its provocative behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean, despite European Union calls for it to desist from drilling for oil in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Greece’s armed forces are on standby to deal with a possible escalation of tensions in the East Med or the Aegean, Kathimerini understands.

According to sources, the key question being pondered in Athens is how to react in the event that Turkey decides to conduct seismic research or drilling within Greece’s continental shelf or its EEZ. The biggest concern is about a potential Turkish intervention east of Rhodes and south of Kastellorizo.

On the political level, Athens has done what it can, underlining the potential repercussions of Turkey’s provocative behavior on stability in the broader region.

The statement by the EU last week, though vague, was welcomed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as “the first clear and decisive” condemnation of Turkey by the bloc “after decades of violations of international law.” 

On the operational level, however, it is less clear what Greece’s response should be. The country’s armed forces will be on high alert over the summer as defense officials prepare a series of plans to deal with a possible Turkish intervention.

The plans are primarily based on Hellenic Navy maneuvers, as Turkey is currently using research ships and drilling vessels to entrench its presence in the region. However, the Hellenic Air Force would likely play a supportive role in any response.

Asked last week whether Greece can count on military support from the EU or the United States in the event of an incident, Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis told reporters that Greece will have to plan to deal with such a scenario independently. “There is no such promise, nor any such issue at the moment, but as I’ve said before, when we need to do something we expect that we will basically be alone.” 

Athens also holds little faith in promises by French President Emmanuel Macron to send French Navy ships to the Aegean if necessary, as such pledges have been made in the past.

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