Greece has sought to bolster its Mediterranean presence in recent weeks in response to heightened tension with Turkey, ramping up its maneuvers but sparking accusations of adventurism beyond its capacity at home.
Over the past month, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis revamped a defense agreement with the United States, sent a warship to join a French naval battle group and will deliver defensive missiles to Saudi Arabia.
The latest flurry has exposed the recently elected prime minister to accusations of "adventurism" in a particularly volatile Middle East.
"You are embroiling the country in adventures that lie beyond its capacity and change decades-old foreign policy," leftist former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Mitsotakis last month.
Mitsotakis, who became prime minister in July, has shrugged off the criticism as being short-sighted.
According to diplomats, France has encouraged Greece to be more "autonomous" and play a more active role in EU defense initiatives.
Right now, "France is the ideal Greek ally", Panagiotis Tsakonas, a professor of international law at Athens University, told AFP.
"The two countries share views on the situation in the eastern Mediterranean," he said, citing the involvement of French firms in energy exploration off Cyprus.
The strained relations between Greece and Turkey have taken a turn for worse in recent months under the added burden of migration and an energy exploration scramble in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey signed a maritime and military cooperation memorandum with Libya's legitimate Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in November, carving out energy spheres of influence in the Mediterranean at the expense of Greece.
The deal enabled Turkey to secure its rights in the Mediterranean while preventing any fait accompli by other regional states. The memorandum asserts Turkey's rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling attempts by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also had rights to resources in the area.
Fellow regional actor, Greece, did not welcome the deal and even regarded it as a violation of its own rights, though international law deems otherwise. Athens retaliated by expelling the GNA ambassador and by seeking to build ties with Khalifa Haftar, the putschist general of illegitimate forces based in eastern Libya. Greece last month also signed an agreement with the Greek Cypriot administration and Israel on EastMed, a huge pipeline project to ship gas to Europe.
Turkey, as a guarantor nation for the TRNC, is currently carrying out hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean with two drilling vessels, Fatih and Yavuz, along with the Oruç Reis and Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa seismic vessels in the same region.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to resources in the area.
The island of Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the northern third and Greek Cypriot administration in the south since a 1974 military coup aimed at Cyprus' annexation by Greece. Turkey's intervention as a guarantor power in 1974 stopped years-long persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultranationalist Greek Cypriots. The TRNC was founded in 1983.
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