Turkey and Greece are on the brink of military conflict in the eastern Mediterranean, with French military assets also now in the area supporting Cyprus and Greece
President Erdoğan in a televised speech Thursday made an alarming claim, saying the Turkish hydrocarbons exploration ship Oruç Reis has come under some sort of "attack".
Though he didn't specify details or offer evidence, he said Turkish forces responded. “We have already told them that if they attack Oruç Reis, in response, there would be a heavy price to pay. And we have given the first response today,” Erdogan said in the address, according to state media.
A build-up of Greek Navy ships and Turkish warships - the latter escorting the Oruç Reis - has already been confirmed after official Turkish government sources released earlier photos showing a military escort while the seismic research vessel probes near Greece's easternmost islands.
If there was an actual exchange of fire, or perhaps a ramming incident, it likely would not have involved the Oruç Reis directly, but instead one among the multiple Turkish military escort vessels.
The Oruç Reis does not sail alone, it has a navy escort. Official picture released earlier this week. pic.twitter.com/GBeyxsmD3K— Hans de Vreij (@hdevreij) August 13, 2020
There have been some Greek media reports suggesting there was a direct, brief encounter between Greek and Turkish warships.
Turkish sources are reporting a Greek frigate was damage after it came too close to the Oruc Reis, while Greek media says merely minor contact - a "kiss" of sorts between the vessels.
Turkish journalist says Greek Limnos frigate today tried to intervene Oruç Reis and provoked a response by Turkish warship Kemalreis.— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) August 13, 2020
“Limnos has been damaged and towed to the port” pic.twitter.com/OvrTNEfCGM
Whatever the case, the two sides are now only likely to build-up their forces in the region further, also given Athens has found new confidence in France's Emmanuel Macron newly pledging to boost French military presence in support of Greece and Cyprus.