Thursday

24th Sep 2020

French navy to deter Turkey's oil and gas grab

  • French president Macron said the reinforcements are temporary (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

President Emmanuel Macron said he will boost French military assets in the Mediterranean to help stave off Turkey.

The temporary reinforcements will be sent over the coming days "in cooperation with European partners including Greece," he said.

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The announcement on Wednesday (12 August) follows an escalation of tensions with Turkey after it had deployed a research vessel flanked by warships to seek out gas and oil.

It also comes amid competing exclusive economic zones, decades-long unresolved conflicts over Cyprus, maritime border disputes, and a December 2019 deal with Libya that extends Turkey's claim on territorial waters.

Turkey and France also find themselves at odds over Libya, with each supporting leaderships that are fighting one another over the country.

Meanwhile, the Greek navy on Wednesday evening said Turkey's research vessel was sailing out of Greece's territorial waters.

Turkish energy minister Fatih Donmez had also announced the boat is now surveying the area, noting it had laid some 1,750km of seismic cables on the Mediterranean sea floor.

The situation has put the European Union in a difficult position, as it relies heavily on Turkey to host over 3 million refugees.

In February, the EU imposed targeted sanctions - travel bans and asset freezes - in response to Turkey's illegal drilling within Cypriot territorial waters.

But the sanctions only hit two officials in a state-owned Turkish oil company, sparing high-ranking government insiders close to Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, had also, earlier this month, met with Turkish authorities in Malta to muster better relations and "reverse current negative trends."

However, Borrell's decision-making ability on the issue is constrained as he first needs the backing of member states.

He said unilateral actions must be avoided, a request that appears to have since been ignored given Turkey's recent moves.

Turkey also appears to have found an ally with Malta, as both oppose the EU's naval operation Irini.

The naval operation seeks to prevent the flow of weapons to Libya.

The two had issued a joint-statement along with Libya, after meetings held with the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli last week.

Foreign ministers across the bloc are now set to hold talks on Friday about Turkey, as the call for more sanctions intensifies.

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