While Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is in Athens on Dec. 5 for talks as his country keeps a research vessel and warship off Cyprus, Turkey will also conduct Naval war games off Greek islands.
Davutoglu will take part in two-day talks at the High-Level Cooperation Council of Greece and Turkey designed to lessen tension, but Ankara instead has stepped up anxiety with plans for the Naval exercises of ships and submarines near Limnos, Kastelorizo, Ro and Strongyli since the start of the week.
Although the operations had been planned much earlier, the maritime order (also known as a Navtex) marking out the area was only issued last week, suggesting that Turkey intended for the exercises to take place at the same time as leaders are due to meet in the Greek capital.
Greek authorities have also noted an increase in the number of incursions into Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets over the past few days. There have been more than 20 since the start of the week.
Greece was hoping the talks would ratchet down the tension over the presence of Turkish ships off Cyprus and as Turkey also sent a warship off Greece last month and with Turkish fighter jets stepping up their violations of Greek air space with some 20 incursions in recent days.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannis Kasoulides told Kathimerini that Nicosia was hoping that the cooperation council will help lead to the resumption of reunification talks on the island, which were abandoned when the Turkish research vessel Barbaros sailed into the Cypriot maritime zone to look for oil and gas in an area where Cyprus had already licensed international companies, including from the US, to drill.
He added that his government had been disappointed by Washington’s suggestion that hydrocarbons issues should be part of the agenda negotiated at this stage with the Turkish Cypriots although Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who broke off reunification talks with Ankara after the invasion of his country’s waters, said they would not be.
“The US interventions have not helped to ease the tension,” he said. “Washington is trying unnecessarily to introduce the common management of hydrocarbons, which is unacceptable for us,” he added.