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Turkish diplomat’s car torched in Greece amid tensions over energy exploration

Ankara says its recent deal with Libya grants it economic rights to a large swath of the eastern Mediterranean, sparking a multinational diplomatic row

This picture taken on January 31, 2019, shows a view of the SSCV Thialf crane vessel after laying the newly arrived foundation platform for the Leviathan natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of Haifa. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/AFP)
This picture taken on January 31, 2019, shows a view of the SSCV Thialf crane vessel after laying the newly arrived foundation platform for the Leviathan natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of Haifa. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/AFP)

A Turkish diplomat’s car was torched in Greece early Monday, police said, amid escalating tensions between the two NATO allies.

Nobody was hurt in the incident in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city. The Turkish consular staffer’s car did not have diplomatic license plates, police said.

The two countries are locked in a row over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara recently completed a maritime border deal with Libya that it says grants it economic rights to a large swath of the eastern Mediterranean. But other countries in the region, including Greece and Cyprus, say the deal unlawfully truncates their own economic zones and impedes their rights to offshore exploration for hydrocarbons.

In this July 9, 2019, photo, a Turkish Navy warship patrols near Turkey’s drilling ship ‘Fatih’ that was making its way towards the eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus to begin drilling operations. (Turkish Defence Ministry via AP, Pool)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said the agreement means that no oil and gas exploration or any other “projects” can proceed in the area without Ankara’s permission.

One such project Erdogan may have been alluding to is an envisioned gas pipeline conveying gas from Israeli and Cypriot offshore deposits to mainland Europe via Greece.

Turkey doesn’t recognize EU-member Cyprus as a state and claims 44 percent of its exclusive economic zone. It has dispatched drill ships to search for hydrocarbons off Cyprus, including in an area where the Cyprus government has licensed a consortium made up of Italian energy company Eni and French Total to carry out exploratory drilling.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said on Saturday that he was in touch with the leaders of Egypt, Israel, Greece and Lebanon to formulate joint diplomatic action aimed at countering the Turkey-Libya maritime border deal but that joint action doesn’t include a military option.

On Sunday, Greece’s foreign minister made a whirlwind tour of eastern Libya, Egypt and Cyprus, after which Athens said it would sign an agreement for a huge EastMed pipeline project with Cyprus and Israel on January 2.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s office said the agreement for the EastMed pipeline would be signed in Athens with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

The 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) pipeline will be able to transfer between nine and 12 billion cubic meters a year from offshore gas reserves between Israel and Cyprus to Greece, and then on to Italy and other southeastern European countries.

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