On August 12th, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France would increase its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
In case it isn’t obvious why this is being carried out, he explained that Turkey should halt oil and gas exploration in disputed waters which has led to heightened tensions with Greece.
A statement by Macron’s office said that France will “temporarily reinforce” the presence of its military to “monitor the situation in the region and mark its determination to uphold international law.”
In a call with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Macron raised concern over “unilateral” exploration by Turkey, adding that they should “cease in order to allow a peaceful dialogue” between Turkey and Greece.
Just days earlier, France and Cyprus signed a defense cooperation agreement, it was negotiated back in April 2017, however, it is being signed at quite an opportune time. Both Cyprus and Greece strongly oppose Turkey’s oil and gas exploration in contested waters, following an agreement between Libya’s Government of National Accord and Ankara in November 2019.
France also strongly opposes Turkey’s support of the GNA in the fight in Libya against Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces.
Currently, France and Cyprus have signed a defense cooperation agreement, as well as Egypt and Greece signed an agreement that allows both countries to share their exclusive economic zones. Both of these go directly against Turkey’s activities and ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean.
France’s increased military presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea is further made easier by the fact that the French Navy Mistral-class LHD Tonnerre – a helicopter carrier – set sail towards Beirut, Lebanon on August 9th.
This warship came with the following personnel and equipment:
- An engineer group of the French Army of about 350 men commanded by the 2nd Régiment étranger de génie. Established on very short notice, this module is particularly suited to operating in complex environments, in particular through its clearing, engineering and deployment assistance capacities;
- A detachment of EOD divers from the French Navy with skills in underwater work and investigation of port areas;
- Amphibious landing means: one EDAR and two CTM landing crafts;
- Two helicopters (a Caracal from the French Air Force and an Alouette III from the French Navy);
- Maritime access reconnaissance and hydrographic support capabilities of the French Naval Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service (SHOM);
- A module of the 519th régiment du train;
- Fire-fighting vehicles from Marseille firefighters which will be donated to Lebanon;
Fire-fighting aside, some of these could easily be used to scan the ocean floor and investigate what Turkey is doing in the eastern Mediterranean. Furthermore, the ship is armed with its usual armament, but likely with a reduced helicopter wing.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Greece And Turkey’s Ever-Difficult Relations
- France and Cyprus Sign Defense Cooperation Agreement To Further Exert Pressure On Turkey
- Egypt And Greece Sign Maritime Agreement, Turkey Objects