(CNN)Tension is simmering in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean as Greece and Turkey, NATO allies but historic rivals, inch toward a possible military confrontation that could end up engulfing the region.
NATO allies are facing off in the Eastern Mediterranean. The conflict could entangle the entire region
Naval vessels from both countries made a show of force in the contested region of the Eastern Mediterranean this week as a race for gas and oil reserves adds a new point of friction to old disputes.
Hostilities first flared when Ankara announced that it is extending the duration of a seismic exploration mission in the disputed waters originally expected to end on Monday in a maritime navigational note using the global NAVTEX system. The Oruc Reis survey vessel is accompanied by naval ships and the Turkish defense ministry announced maritime exercises in the area on Tuesday.
Greece considers the Turkish gas exploration illegal. Athens responded to Ankara by issuing a counter NAVTEX message and announcing naval exercises in the same location to the south of Turkey and the Greek island of Kastellorizo, which lies just over one mile from the Turkish coast.
On Wednesday, Turkey confirmed that its navy warships were conducting "maritime trainings" with a US vessel in the Eastern Mediterranean.
They're not the only ones: France and Italy are joining Greece and Cyprus for joint naval exercises, French and Italian officials said, a move likely to raise the temperature further in the region.
"The Eastern Mediterranean has transformed into a space of tensions," French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted Wednesday. "The respect of international law should be the rule and not the exception. With our Cypriot, Greek and Italian partners we will start military exercises from today with maritime and air methods."
The Italian navy said in a statement calling for "stronger cooperation and dialogue" that it would be taking part in an exercise off Cyprus, with the naval units of France, Cyprus and Greece, between August 26-28. The Italian ship involved in that also took part in a four-hour exercise with the Turkish navy on Wednesday.
While Greece and Turkey have been engaging in gunboat diplomacy that has pulled more countries into the dispute, Germany has been looking to de-escalate the tensions that threaten to spill over regionally.