Athens deceives Greeks about actions in Mediterranean, sources say

AHMET TOPAL
ANKARA
Published 27.02.2018 00:00

The Greek government is deceiving its people by providing misleading information about its actions in the Mediterranean Sea, Turkish military sources said.

Recently, Deputy Greek Defense Minister Dimitris Vistas said in a televised interview that Greece is increasing its naval forces in the Mediterranean in a bid to send a clear message to Ankara. However, military sources speaking to Daily Sabah said that the Greek government is deceiving its people and the reality is entirely different.

According to the sources, the decision to replace assault boats with frigates was previously made as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The sources said that Athens decided to send frigates to the Mediterranean six months ago after the United Nations demanded a larger force in the area.

Sources in Ankara believe that Athens is trying to portray the move as a bold maneuver against Turkey, bolstering their image at home. However, they claim that Greece will be paid more with the new decision. They said that the United Nations will pay Greece more if they replace the assault boats with frigates.

Turkey and Greece have been at odds in the Aegean and Mediterranean. Relations between the countries have been strained, as earlier this month, Turkish warships blocked an Italian oil rig from reaching a natural gas exploration zone unilaterally declared by Greek Cyprus, which was followed by a Foreign Ministry statement accusing Greek Cyprus of jeopardizing regional security and stability. Turkey opposes the drilling before a permanent solution on the island, which it says disregards the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

Ankara has insisted numerous times that it would not allow the Greek Cypriot government to proceed with offshore gas exploration as long as the rights of Turkish Cyprus to the natural resources off the island are being ignored. The Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turkish Cypriot community and the Turkish military intervened as a guarantor power.

Moreover, Turkish and Greek coast guard vessels collided off the contested Kardak islets, known as Imia in Greek. Previously on Jan. 28, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos was prevented from approaching the area on a Greek naval boat on the 22nd anniversary of a Greek helicopter crash that killed three soldiers during a military standoff between the two countries.

A decades-long dispute between Turkey and Greece over the uninhabited Aegean islets brought the countries to the brink of armed conflict in 1996 and led to renewed tensions this year. The two, small, uninhabited islets, are situated between the Greek island chain of the Dodecanese and the southwestern mainland coast of Turkey.

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