Turkish and Greek warships collide in eastern Mediterranean

Crash was an accident, claims Greek defence source

Jon Sharman
Friday 14 August 2020 15:48 BST
Turkey's research vessel, Oruc Reis, right, is surrounded by Turkish navy vessels west of Antalya in the Mediterranean
Turkey's research vessel, Oruc Reis, right, is surrounded by Turkish navy vessels west of Antalya in the Mediterranean

Greek and Turkish warships suffered a minor collision in the eastern Mediterranean on Wednesday, a Greek defence source has said.

The source claimed the crash was an accident, but it comes amid rising tensions between the two nations as Turkey maps out maritime territory for mineral extraction in a region where both claim jurisdiction.

A Turkish survey ship, the Oruc Reis, is being escorted by warships as it examines the area for possible oil and gas drilling.

It has been moving between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, shadowed by a number of Greek frigates.

On Wednesday one of the Greek ships, the Limnos, was approaching the survey vessel when it came into the path of one of the Turkish naval escorts, the Kemal Reis.

The Greek frigate manoeuvred to avoid a head-on collision and in the process its bow touched the rear of the Turkish frigate, the defence source told Reuters.

“It was an accident,” the source said, adding that the Limnos was not damaged. The 3,500-ton, 30-year-old frigate subsequently took part in a joint military exercise with France off Crete on Thursday morning.

There was no immediate comment from the Turkish ministry of defence.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, said on Thursday that any attack on a Turkish ship exploring for oil and gas in disputed Mediterranean waters would incur a “high price” and suggested Ankara had already acted on that warning.

“We said that if you attack our Oruc Reis you will pay a high price, and they got their first answer today,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara, without giving details.

Greece and Turkey are Nato allies but they have had a series of disputes, including over boundaries of offshore continental shelves and airspace, to the ethnically split island of Cyprus. In 1996 they almost went to war over ownership of uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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