Tensions Flare in East Mediterranean

Germany’s Foreign Minister has appealed for an easing of tensions in the east Mediterranean where NATO allies Greece and Turkey are getting deeper into a confrontation. Germany fears that ‘a spark could lead to a disaster.’

Heiko Maas visited both countries but failed to reach any firm agreement. Yet he said on Tuesday that there is still a willingness for discussion between the two neighbours, as neither wants to settle their dispute by military means.

German and Turkish Foreign Ministers metGerman and Turkish Foreign Ministers met (photo: Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency)

Greece and Turkey

The tensions have arisen over Turkey’s operations searching for gas and oil reserves in disputed waters. Recent discoveries of major gas deposits in waters near to Crete and Cyprus have triggered a push for energy riches and revived the old rivalry between Greece and Turkey.

There have been several naval confrontations already and now Greece says it will start military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean today, along with forces from France, Italy and Cyprus.

The joint exercises will take place to the south of the Greek island of Crete and will last three days.

Israel and Hezbollah

The tensions between Greece and Turkey are, perhaps, the surprising element of a volatile picture in the region. Early this morning tensions between Israel and Hezbollah flared on Israel’s northern border.

After Hezbollah militants fired at Israeli troops yesterday evening, Israel struck back early this morning, bombing several Hezbollah observation posts.

There is a danger in this that Hezbollah is seeking to distract attention from controversy over its suspected involvement in storing the materials that caused the devastating explosion in Beirut earlier in the month.

Israel and Hamas

Meanwhile the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues in the south of the country.

Yesterday, Israel’s forces struck more targets within the Gaza Strip, in response to ongoing attacks on Southern Israel using incendiary balloons over the last two weeks.

Hamas are demanding many concessions from Israel, including the release of Qatari aid money to ease their situation in the Gaza Strip.

They have published a statement saying that ‘the problem isn’t money.’ Their intention is to continue launching incendiary balloons ‘until Israel removes its blockade’.

USA and Turkey

Another complication within the region is tension between the USA and Turkey. The American administration criticised Turkish President Recep Erdoğan yesterday for meeting with Hamas leadership on Saturday.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said:

“The United States strongly objects to Turkish President Erdoğan hosting
two Hamas leaders in Istanbul on 22nd August.”

“Hamas is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US and EU, and both officials
hosted by President Erdoğan are Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”