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Turkey extends seismic surveys in Mediterranean as Greece in talks to buy arms

Ankara said the Oruc Reis will continue its seismic surveys in eastern Mediterranean sea till 12 September
Athens said it was prepared to spend from its cash reserve to beef up its 'deterrence' forces (AFP)

Turkey said an exploration vessel will continue carrying out seismic surveys in a disputed part of the eastern Mediterranean sea claimed by Greece as tensions continue to rise in the region between the two NATO members. 

Turkey and Greece have laid claims to areas in the eastern Mediterranean where experts have said there are vast untapped hydrocarbon resources.

Both countries have vehemently disagreed over claims to the area based on conflicting views as to who controls continental shelves in waters in the area. 

The Turkish navy issued the new advisory saying that the Oruc Reis would continue surveying the area until 12 September. Ankara had previously said it intended to continue its surveys till 1 September. 

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Seismic surveys are part of preparatory work for potential hydrocarbon exploration. Turkey has also been exploring for hydrocarbon resources in the Black Sea and discovered a 320 billion cubic metre gas field. 

Ankara dispatched the Oruc Reis last month after Athens and Cairo made a pact that ratified its maritime boundaries. 

But Turkey's decision to continue its surveys of the eastern Mediterranean sea comes as tensions mount with Greece over the disputed area. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara was open to talks if Greece was interested in solving issues through dialogue. 

Athens meanwhile said it was in talks with France and other countries over arms purchases to boost its armed forces. 

A government official told Reuters that Greece was ready to spend parts of its cash reserves on arms to help increase its "deterrence force" after years of cuts to its defence spending.

"We are in talks with France, and not only with France, in order to increase our country's defence potential," the government official said. "Within this framework, there is a discussion which includes the purchase of aircraft."

France and Germany have tried to mediate to defuse the tension, while Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held two calls with US President Donald Trump last week.

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