US rebukes Turkey for 'calculated provocation' in eastern Mediterranean

The State Department on Tuesday said it "deplores" Turkey's push for a geological survey in the eastern Mediterranean, calling the move a "calculated provocation" against NATO ally Greece.

"The United States deplores Turkey's October 11 announcement of renewed Turkish survey activity in areas over which Greece asserts jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

"Turkey's announcement unilaterally raises tensions in the region and deliberately complicates the resumption of crucial exploratory talks between our NATO Allies Greece and Turkey." 

The rebuke follows Turkey's most recent announcement that it was sending ships for a geological survey in the eastern Mediterranean in contested waters off of Greek islands that Athens claims as its exclusive territorial economic zone.

"Coercion, threats, intimidation, and military activity will not resolve tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean," Ortagus said. "We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece. Unilateral actions cannot build trust and will not produce enduring solutions."

The move by Ankara is increasing tensions between the NATO allies following a period of deescalation and mediation earlier this month and amid a number of conflicts stemming from military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean and territorial-water claims for energy exploration.  

Greece's Foreign Ministry on Monday said that Turkey's action "constitutes a major escalation and direct threat to peace and security in the region."

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borell on Monday said Ankara's actions are "regrettable" and will lead to new tensions that threaten deescalation efforts between the NATO allies.

Turkey had withdrawn its exploratory vessel, the Oruc Reis, earlier this month in a push for diplomacy led by the E.U. and open dialogue between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus over territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean.   

Turkey has defended its actions, with its foreign ministry on Monday saying the exploration "is entirely within the Turkish continental shelf" and called Greek objections as "groundless allegations inconsistent with international law."