Greece and France have conducted joint military training exercises off the southern Greek island of Crete on Thursday, defence sources say, as tensions with Turkey persist over disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
Thursday’s exercises were the first manifestation of French President Emmanuel Macron’s commitment to temporarily reinforce his country’s presence in the eastern Mediterranean area. France has called on Turkey to halt oil and gas exploration in disputed waters.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis discussed the situation in the region with Macron by telephone, on Wednesday.
On Thursday, France’s Ministry of Armed Forces said it was sending two Rafale fighter jets and the ‘Lafayette’ naval frigate to the eastern Mediterranean. The frigate and jets had arrived in Crete, earlier on Thursday, and carried out joint manoeuvres with Greek forces, Greek defence sources said.
“[President] Emmanuel Macron is a true friend of Greece, and a fervent defender of European values and international law,” Mitsotakis tweeted, in French, after the call with Macron.
Tensions have simmered between NATO allies Greece and Turkey in recent days over overlapping claims to hydrocarbon resources located in Mediterranean waters.
A Turkish seismic vessel, the Oruc Reis, has been sailing between Crete and Cyprus since Monday. The vessel was despatched by Ankara days after Greece signed a maritime deal with Egypt designating an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two nations.