Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleged on Thursday that its oil and gas exploration vessel, the Oruç Reis, has come under attack, according to Turkish state media, in what is an alarming escalation of the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Greek-Turkish standoff over hydrocarbon exploration rights near the Greek border in the Eastern Mediterranean has been brewing for some time. Undeterred by Greece’s claim over the area, Turkey sent the Oruç Reis out this week to conduct seismic surveillance in its quest for energy resources, complete with a naval escort.

Greece, who alleges that Turkey is exploring for resources in an area that is over its continental shelf, responded by deploying naval ships of its own.

It is unclear exactly what constituted today’s “attack”, and the reports have been unconfirmed. However, Greek media have also commented on some skirmish between Greek and Turkish warships in the area, while some Turkish reports suggest a Greek frigate was damaged after it bumped Turkey’s exploration vessel.

Erdogan has long asserted that it should not be left out of the hydrocarbon exploration game in the area, and has vocalized Turkey’s right to defend its oil and gas interests there, much to the dismay of the European Union.

The Eastern Mediterranean has seen a hotbed of activity lately, with Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt finding hydrocarbon resources there.

Last year, Turkey struck a deal with Libya on Libya’s maritime boundary that allows Turkey to claim rights to an area that Greece says belongs to it. In exchange for this, Turkey offered military support to Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord—once again embroiling oil and gas resources into the scuffle.

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Turkey’s state-run oil company, TPAO, filed for licenses to explore parts of the Mediterranean earlier this summer. It plans to explore near the island of Crete as well as drilling off the coast of Cyprus.

Fanning the flames of a Greece vs. Turkey war over hydrocarbons, French President Emmanuel Macron ordered French naval forces to the eastern Mediterranean to support Greece, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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