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Turkey backs off in EastMed, but for how long?

Turkey's step back in the eastern Mediterranean standoff may be a tactic to avoid EU sanctions instead of a genuine effort to de-escalate.
A Greek navy boat leaves the port of the tiny Greek island of Kastellorizo, officially Megisti, the most south-eastern inhabited Greek island in the Dodecanese, situated two kilometers off the south coast of Turkey on August 28, 2020. (Photo by Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP) (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Turkey withdrew its seismic research vessel, the Oruc Reis, from the contested waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, where tensions triggered by the ship’s activities have run high for more than a month. The move came as a surprise for many, and observers wonder whether the move is just a tactical pause.

The move closely followed a showdown between the two NATO allies. On Sept. 13 Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou visited the island of Kastellorizo, or Meis in Turkish, a Greek island with about 500 inhabitants only a mile off Turkey's coast and some 355 miles (570 kilometers) from the Greek mainland. The Turkish side interpreted the visit as a provocation amid the dangerous escalation in the eastern Mediterranean. In response, Turkey's defense minister and the top military brass traveled to the coastal town of Kas, just across the water from the Greek island. 

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