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United States urges Turkey to support diplomacy amid mounting tensions with Greece in the Mediterranean

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Cyprus on Saturday, calling on Turkey to refrain from any activity that could further aggravate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

The disputes between Ankara, Greece and Cyprus center on hydrocarbon resources and maritime influence in the region which have raised fears of conflict.

Turkey, which is seeking gas and oil reserves in waters claimed by Greece, another NATO member, deployed an exploration vessel backed by military frigates last month.

“We remain deeply concerned about Turkey’s ongoing operations to search for natural resources in areas over which Greece and Cyprus assert jurisdiction over the Eastern Mediterranean,” Pompeo told reporters in Nicosia after a meeting with the Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nicos Christodoulides.

Greece increases military spending

The United States calls on all parties to support diplomacy, but as tensions rise Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced plans to strengthen his country’s defense forces, including the purchase of 18 French fighter jets , four frigates and four naval helicopters.

“He came to strengthen the armed forces as a legacy for the security of the country,” Mitsokakis said at a conference in Thessaloniki.

France has sent warships to the eastern Mediterranean to show support for Greece.

Turkey without compromise

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped up his verbal attacks on France on Saturday by issuing a stern warning to the French president.

“France is often on the agenda. I don’t want to give names, but I have to because it comes to me often. It’s not with our people, but he says, “We have a problem with Erdogan. Mr. Macron, you are going to have a lot more problems with me, ”he said.

However, in a move that could be seen as more conciliatory, Turkey confirmed on Sunday that a research vessel sent to the contentious area in August had returned to Turkish shores.

The EU has threatened Turkey with sanctions unless it ceases its unilateral actions in the disputed area.

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