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Greek president provokes Turkey by visiting tiny island at center of dispute

September 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

In this photo provided by the Greek President's office on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, Greece's President Katerina Sakellaropoulou inspects a guard of honour during celebrations marking when the southeastern island of Kastellorizo, formally became part of Greece. Greece's prime minister outlined plans Saturday to upgrade the country's defense capabilities, including purchasing new fighter planes, frigates, helicopters and weapons systems amid heightened tensions with Turkey over rights to resources in the eastern Mediterranean. (Thodoris Manolopoulos/Greek President's Office via AP)

For weeks, Greece and Turkey have been facing off in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Greece's president strode into this highly charged environment on Sunday, with a provative trip to an island at the center of the dispute.

Kastellorizo, Greece (CNN)For weeks, Greece and Turkey have been facing off in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, raising fears that a dispute between two NATO allies could turn into a full-blown regional crisis.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that Turkey claims rights to gas and oil exploration in an area that conflicts with Greece's own claims.

Greece's first female president, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, confidently strode into this highly charged environment on Sunday, taking a high-powered military helicopter to Kastellorizo, a tiny Greek island in the eastern Mediterranean, on the 77th anniversary of its nationhood.

Turkey says Greece is unfairly staking its claim to the area based on tiny islands like this one near its coast, cheating Ankara out of ocean floor to explore.

On Sunday, President Sakellaropoulou told the island's residents that "the illegal actions of Turkey have caused tensions never seen before in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Tensions aimed not only at Greece, but also the EU and NATO, threatening peace and stability in the region. " She added that Greece was "open to dialogue" and that "immediate de-escalation on Turkey's part is a necessary prerequisite for political discussion. "

Greece says it will go into talks if Turkey stands its warships down, but for now its unclear if the Turks plan to comply for longer than a few days.

A Turkish research vessel which had been escorted into disputed waters by Turkish military ships has now headed back to port in Turkey, a development described as a "positive step" by the Greek government on Sunday.

When Greece and Turkey talk darkly to each other, it's unwise to turn your back to them.

It's barely two generations since Turkey dropped paratroopers onto Greece's neighbor Cyprus, dividing the island in two.

His point was that Greece and Turkey have a history of falling out and making up, and that there have been more good days than bad.

Israel has gas to export, Europe wants to diversify gas imports away from Russia, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who opposes Turkey in Libya, has taken a stand behind Greece.

These layers of multinational complexity risk triggering a chain reaction -- and like the hydrocarbons Turkey and Greece want to extract, a mistake could be explosive.

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