France increases military presence in Mediterranean amid tensions with Turkey

France increases military presence in Mediterranean amid tensions with Turkey

Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis arrives in the disputed area, 12 August.

France will send two Rafale fighter jets and the naval frigate ‘Lafayette’ to the eastern Mediterranean as part of plans to increase its military presence in the region, the armed forces ministry said on Thursday, news wires reported. A day earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron called on Turkey to halt oil and gas exploration in the disputed waters in that area, which has resulted in heightened tensions with Greece.

The French leader voiced concern over "unilateral" exploration by Turkey in a call with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Macron's office said in a statement. It added that prospecting should "cease in order to allow a peaceful dialogue" between the neighbouring NATO members.

The standoff deepened this week with the arrival of Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis in a disputed area of the Mediterranean, accompanied by warships.

Turkey and Greece are at loggerheads over competing claims to natural gas reserves, brought into sharp focus by the attempts of EU member Cyprus to explore for gas in the eastern Mediterranean over Turkey's strong objections.

Macron called last month for EU sanctions against Turkey for what he described as "violations" of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters. Relations between Paris and Ankara have also frayed over the conflict in Libya.

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