Greece, Turkey wrangle over military games in eastern Med

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Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, left, listens his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during their meeting in Athens, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. The talks of the two diplomats are focus on the situation between Greece and Turkey as the neighbour country announced late Saturday that it is extending by one week a gas exploration mission in the eastern Mediterranean that has caused tensions with Greece. (Costas Baltas/Pool via AP)

ATHENS – Greece on Monday denounced Turkey’s plans to carry out a maritime military exercise on Oct. 28, a Greek national holiday, announced hours after NATO’s secretary general said both countries had called off wargames on each other’s national holidays.

Tension with Turkey was one of the main topics of discussion between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Monday.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Ankara’s move showed it was an “unreliable” partner when it comes to negotiations.

“Over the last few days, Turkey has been making a persistent effort to prove that not only is it a troublemaker in our wider region, but it is also a completely unreliable interlocutor,” Petsas said.

Neighbors and NATO allies Greece and Turkey have had often frosty relations through the years. Most recently they have been locked in a bitter dispute in over maritime boundaries and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Turkey has sent a seismic research vessel, the Oruc Reis, to prospect for energy reserves on the seabed in an area Greece that claims is on its own continental shelf and where it has exclusive economic rights. Turkey disputes the claim.

The spat has led to warships from the two sides facing off in the area, leading to fears of open conflict.

On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said both Greece and Turkey were canceling military exercises scheduled for this week on each other’s national holidays, and described the move as “steps in the right direction, they help reduce the risks of incidents and accidents.”