Duvar English

Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos has accused Turkey of testing the country’s reflexes, as the rift between Athens and Ankara continues over the sides’ activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

The recent incident took place when Greek authorities accused Oruç Reis, a Turkish research vessel, of entering Greece’s continental shelf.

The Greek defense minister said that while Oruç Reis most likely sailed into the area of Greece’s continental shelf in order to avoid bad weather off the coast of Cyprus before sailing off again on Feb. 1, he was not ruling out the possibility of a deliberate action to test Athens’ reflexes.

“It probably drifted and had no other choice but to go against the weather,” Kathimerini cited Panagiotopoulos as saying on Feb. 3, adding that Greece’s response had to nevertheless be immediate.

“Our response had to be immediate because… we knew that our reflexes were being tested,” adding that he kept Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis informed of the research vessel’s movements and position via a series of telephone calls.

“We monitored it from the very first hour. Such situations are an exercise in composure because the decisions you have to take must be considered very carefully,” he also said.

“The frigate Nikiforos Fokas was in the area the next morning. The Greek frigate constantly updated the operations center with live images from the area where the Oruç Reis was sailing, while an Air Force F-16 was monitoring it from above,” Panagiotopoulos noted.

Saying that Athens will do “whatever it takes” to defend its sovereign rights, Panagiotopoulos added that “the situation is difficult.”