The Daily Telegraph

Our ships at sea

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The Government seems intent on drawing the Royal Navy into helping to tackle the growing number of migrants crossing the Channel from France. While ships have not yet been requested, the Ministry of Defence said “nothing was off the table” to stem the flow of small boats and dinghies. Naval specialist­s are being drafted in to lend their expertise.

But the Armed Forces are not an adjunct of the border police. Deploying warships in the Channel to deal with migrants would be a dubious use of this resource. It also raises questions about the UK’S geopolitic­al priorities. French warships have been sent to the eastern Mediterran­ean to confront the Turkish navy, which has escorted a drilling ship into waters containing deep-sea gas fields claimed by Greece and Cyprus. Ankara says they are in territory annexed by Turkey in 1974.

Relations between France and Turkey, both Nato members, have been cooling rapidly, with Emmanuel Macron denouncing President Erdogan’s actions in Syria. Symbolical­ly, given this animosity, the Turkish exploratio­n vessel is named in honour of the Ottoman pirate, Oruc Reis, who ravaged the French coast from his Algerian base.

President Macron’s decision to back Greece and Cyprus is further indication of France’s enhanced role in the Mediterran­ean following his recent visit to crisis-torn Lebanon. But he is also upholding the internatio­nally recognised protocols for exploring the energy resources. The risk of conflict in the region grows by the day, but where is the UK? Britain still has two sovereign bases on Cyprus and is a guarantor of its constituti­on. The MOD and the Foreign Office need to focus on what is going on there and not be sidetracke­d by politicall­y expedient domestic considerat­ions.

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