October 24, 2018 / 1:23 PM / 25 days ago

Turkey won't allow Greek interference in East Med activities - minister

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey will not allow Greece to interfere in its activities in the eastern Mediterranean, its defence minister said, a few days after Ankara complained that a Greek frigate had harassed a Turkish energy exploration ship in the region.

Turkey's Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar is seen during the EFES-2018 Military Exercise near the Aegean port city of Izmir, Turkey May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo

Attempts to tap hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean, along with a dispute over Greece’s maritime borders, have revived tensions between the NATO allies who are separated by the Aegean Sea.

Turkey and the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government in Cyprus have overlapping claims of jurisdiction for offshore oil and gas research in the eastern Mediterranean.

Both sides plan exploratory drills this year.

“Our warships are providing the necessary protection in the region. We will never tolerate new harassment,” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency in an interview broadcast live on Wednesday.

He said no project was possible in the eastern Mediterranean without the involvement of Turkey and northern Cyprus, a breakaway state only recognised by Ankara.

“We have (taken) all kinds of measures. I want everyone to know that we will not tolerate a fait accompli of any sort on this subject,” Akar said.

“We are in favour of solving problems with talks and peaceful methods before they turn into a hot conflict in any way,” he added.

Anadolu reported earlier that the Turkish ship Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa was carrying out seismic research in the region last week when it was harassed by a Greek frigate until the Turkish navy intervened.

A Greek defence source denied there was an incident but said the Greeks were monitoring the Turkish ship’s activity. It seemed to be in an area claimed by the Greek Cypriot government for future hydrocarbons exploration, west of the island.

Separately, Turkey warned Greece on Tuesday it would not tolerate a shift in Greece’s maritime border, drawing a sharp rebuke from Athens that it would decide when and how it exercises its sovereign rights.

The statements from both sides came a few days after Greece’s former foreign minister said Greece planned to extend its territorial waters from six to 12 miles to the west of the country. Turkey is situated to the east of Greece.

Despite Athens’ rebuke, Greek diplomatic sources said Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had referred the decision on whether to extend territorial waters to parliament, rather than fast-track it via a presidential decree.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay with additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Athens; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Mark Heinrich

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