US Warship Arrives in Crete to Monitor the Escalating Tensions Between Greece and Turkey


The massive American warship, the USS Hershel Woody Williams, has arrived in the Greek island of Crete to monitor escalating tensions between NATO allies Greece and Turkey over energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

The US vessel joins others from the European Union and Russia, raising concerns among some in Greece about a military build-up.

Armed experts describe the USS Hershel Woody Williams as a floating base, the second of a recent class of massive ships. The US Navy is now using it as a rapid transport and support centre for armed operations.

The 230-meter-long ship was earlier in Naples, Italy, for a routine logistics stop before it was sent to Crete where it is on standby as Greece and Turkey remain locked in a standoff.

US officials have not given details on the orders the Hershel Woody Williams received or how long it will remain in Crete’s Souda Bay. Its presence comes as France also deployed a pair of frigates, last week, to the eastern Mediterranean – a move that rapidly drew Moscow’s attention and pushed the Russian navy to bring in one of its frigates.

Greek and Turkish battleships have been gathering in the region since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered a research vessel to the eastern Mediterranean to survey for oil and gas.

Greece says the seabed off the coast of Crete and other islands in the region are its own to exploit – a claim Turkey has repeatedly refused, saying islands are not entitled to what is known as an exclusive economic zone.

Cyprus Foreign Minister, Nikos Khristodoulidis said that forces from the European Union and countries in the region are likely to arrive and join the effort.

The analyst, Kostas Ifandis, a professor of military studies and diplomatic relations, doubts that a show of force will bring much change to the situation.

He says that if the situation gets dicey, we may see other countries like Egypt mobilising. However, from the EU’s standpoint, he says, it is unlikely that this build-up will impact Turkey because its biggest trading partner and closest ally, Germany, is unlikely to join in such a manoeuvre.

Currently chairing the EU’s rotating presidency, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been trying to convince Athens and Ankara to enter negotiations to address the crisis.

Germany has been reluctant to support stiff sanctions against Turkey, but it has advised the government in Ankara to pull back its survey vessel from the disputed waters. Yet, Turkey is still determined to continue the survey.

The build-up of ships, submarines, and even combat aircraft in the region have made experts fear an accident that could spark a bigger confrontation between Greece and Turkey.

Such tensions are a result of Turkey’s decision to send a research vessel, called Oruc Reis, to undertake a seismic survey close to the Greek island of Megitsi.

Greece and Turkey have been at loggerheads over energy resources since the discovery of hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece and the European Union claim Turkey is illegally drilling in the region, but Turkey claims the area is within its own exclusive economic zone.