Greek news sources are reporting that Greece's military is on "high alert" after on Tuesday Turkish survey ships entered East Mediterranean waters between Cyprus and Greece.
And Reuters reports that "Greece accused Turkey on Tuesday of attempting to encroach on its continental shelf in a serious escalation of tensions between the two NATO allies at odds over a range of issues."
For much of the past year European Union leaders have condemned Turkey's expansive claims to broad swathes of Mediterranean waters around Cyprus and reaching into Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The US State Department is also backing Greece's condemnation of Turkish encroachment. Meanwhile, the number one trending hashtag in Greek Twitter right now happens to be war.
On Tuesday a US State Department statement demanded that Turkey back down from its drilling plans which are sure to immediately escalation already soaring tensions.
“We urge Turkish authorities to halt any plans for operations and to avoid steps that raise tensions in the region,” the statement said. And Greece's foreign ministry said it clearly violates the country's sovereignty and that it stands ready to defend its territory.
This as not for the first time a pair of Turkish F-16s reportedly flew over Greece's easternmost territory, including the islands of Strongyli and Megisti. Greece's prime minister also said this week that EU sanctions await Turkey if it moves forward with illegal drilling.
Reuters: "An advisory known as a Navtex was issued by Turkey’s navy on Tuesday for seismic surveys in an area of sea between Cyprus and Crete. The advisory is in effect until Aug. 20."
A number of very recent issues have already significantly built-up tensions. To review:
- Turkey's provocative move to turn the historic Byzantine Hagia Sophia church into a mosque.
- Continued historic animosity over ethnically-partitioned Cyprus.
- Turkish claims to all waters surrounding Cyprus.
- Recent border tensions involving Erdogan sending thousands of Syrians refugees to Greece's border.
- Greece's militarized response along migrant crossing points at the Turkish border.
- Turkey's involvement in Libya, which has seen its navy patrols expand into the Mediterranean off the north African coast.
All of this means the region stands of the brink, perhaps more than every before, while the Greek navy prepares to prevent Turkish drilling ships to encroach on its territorial waters.
To underscore where things stand, see this message being widely shared in Greek on social media and via Greek news sources: Greek social media users are urging people to not post photos, videos or information about Greek military movements.
Meanwhile Greek stocks saw their biggest daily drop in a month on Tuesday amid the renewed Turkey tensions, while the Turkish lira also felt the pressure, falling further against the dollar, for a total 13% decline so far this year.