NICOSIA, Cyprus — Greece’s Foreign Minister said his country will boost its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean as part of NATO and United Nations-approved missions. Evangelos Venizelos made the announcement in Cyprus at a time of renewed tension with Turkey over oil and gas exploration rights off the divided island.
Venizelos said Greece would be sending a frigate and submarine, and denied it was in response to a current Turkish survey mission in waters where Cyprus has already licensed companies to drill.
“Greece has a longstanding naval presence in the region,” he said. “All countries in the region must work toward … safeguarding peace and stability in that region. That is my message to Turkey.”
Cyprus has been split along ethnic lines since 1974, and only Turkey recognizes the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north where it maintains a strong military presence. The internationally recognized government is in the Greek Cypriot south.
Venizelos met the foreign ministers Ioannis Kasoulides of Cyprus, and Sameh Shoukry of Egypt for talks that centered on offshore energy rights.
In a joint statement, the ministers said they “deplored the recent illegal actions perpetrated within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.” The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt are scheduled to meet in Cairo on Nov. 9.
“All our initiatives are initiatives of political diplomacy aimed at maintaining stability and peace in the region,” Venizelos told reporters in Nicosia. He added that all countries in the region must work toward the same aim. “That is also our message to the Turkish side,” he said.
Venizelos, Kasoulides and Shoukry, with so much at stake in the search for energy reserves off Cyprus, together condemned Turkey for invading Cypriot waters, although even the European Union hasn’t done that although Cyprus is a member.
The three diplomats issued a statement that said they also were unhappy that Turkey sent three warships and a research vessel into waters where Cyprus has licensed foreign companies to drill. Turkey, which unlawfully invaded the island 40 years ago and keeps a standing army in the northern third it occupies, covets the energy reserves that belong to Cyprus.
“Any unilateral actions further undermine the stability and security of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East area,” they added.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)
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