Erdogan rages at Greece over plans for military drills near oil and gas site

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Greece of endangering navigational safety after it announced military and naval exercises near the site where Turkey is drilling in a disputed area of the Mediterranean.

In a speech on Monday, Erdogan said Greece is "endangering the coastal and navigational safety of all ships in the region" and warned that its attitude to international law had thrown Greece "into a chaos that it cannot get out of."

Greece's navy and air force will conduct military exercises beginning Tuesday, authorities said,

Germany, meanwhile, is stepping up diplomatic efforts to prevent tensions between the two regional rivals from escalating further, sending its foreign minister to both Athens and Ankara on Tuesday.

The Turkish government disputes Greece’s claim to exclusive rights in the waters where Turkey's Oruc Reis research vessel is now surveying. The United States and the European Union so far have broadly backed Greece in the dispute, but EU countries remain split over a request from Greece to impose sanctions on Turkey. The tensions between the two NATO members over Mediterranean Sea rights have echoed across Europe.

Greece's three-day, live-fire exercises will start southeast of the Greek island of Crete, officials in Athens said.

Turkey says the Oruc Reis is supposed to keep working through Thursday. Greece has repeatedly demanded its withdrawal, sent its own warships to the area and placed its armed forces on alert.

Athens says the tensions led to a minor collision earlier this month between a Greek frigate and a Turkish frigate, in which nobody was injured.

'Turkey will not take the slightest step back'

Erdogan vowed Monday not to abandon the search for energy in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Turkey will not take the slightest step back concerning the operations of the Orus Reis nor (concerning) our (naval) fleet," he said. "On the contrary, Turkey will act with more determination concerning the protection of its rights, and (of) laws in the region.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will try to revive talks aimed at de-escalating the tensions between the two uneasy neighbours.

“From our standpoint, direct dialogue and steps from both sides to deescalate the situation are needed to find a solution to (reduce) tensions,” German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger told reporters in Berlin.

“We have a big concern that these tensions ... could have even more grave consequences.”

Germany, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, is among EU nations considered reluctant to impose sanctions on Turkey. EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the crisis in the eastern Mediterranean at an informal meeting in Berlin this week.

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