Turkey is not chasing unnecessary adventures in the eastern Mediterranean, but its rights and interests, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, calling on Greece and Greek Cyprus to stop ignoring the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots and return to common sense for a win-win resolution.
“It’s not Turkey that is escalating the tension in the Mediterranean but the Greek-Cyprus mindset that is trying to ignore Turkey and the Turkish Cyprus. We recently observed that Greece and Greek Cypriot administration are taking the wrong steps in the eastern Mediterranean. Nobody should see himself or herself on the distorting mirror and run for the show,” Erdoğan said at a meeting with his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) fellows at the headquarters on Aug. 13.
Recalling that Turkey has always prioritized diplomacy and dialogue to resolve problems with Greece, he said, “We have no ambition on anybody’s rights, but we will not allow the exploitation of our rights either. The way to resolve problems in the eastern Mediterranean is dialogue and negotiations. If common sense prevails, then a formula on the win-win base can always be found while preserving each party’s rights.”
“The path to a solution in the eastern Mediterranean is via dialogue and negotiation. We are not chasing any unnecessary adventures or seeking tensions,” Erdoğan stressed.
The ties between Turkey and Greece have been strained in the last few days after the latter signed a maritime demarcation agreement with Egypt at the expense of violating the Turkish continental shelf. Turkey has dispatched its research vessel, Oruç Reis, to the eastern Mediterranean for seismic surveys accompanied by the Turkish warships, triggering a strong condemnation from Athens, which claims that the area belongs to Greece.
Greek claims ‘baseless’
Accusing Greece of acting in an ill-intentioned way in both the Aegean and Mediterranean by claiming excessive maritime jurisdiction areas, Erdoğan said Athens was trying to take advantage by using the Meis Island, which is just across the Turkish mainland.
“Claiming maritime jurisdiction areas over the 10-square-kilometer Meis Island, which is two kilometers from Turkey, but 580 kilometers from the Greek mainland, cannot be justified by any reason and common sense,” Erdoğan said. Arguing that an island with just 10 square kilometers in size can expand to a 40,000 square kilometers jurisdiction area in the Mediterranean is both comic and legally baseless.
“I, therefore, call on Greece to respect Turkey’s rights.”
Keeping diplomacy alive
Erdoğan held a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the eve of the EU’s extraordinary foreign ministers’ meeting on Aug. 14.
Erdoğan said that would ask the EU leaders to urge Greece over Athens’ “violation” of minority rights of the Turkish communities in the Western Thrace. Otherwise, Turkey will deal with the issue through international law or other means, Erdoğan said without specifying them.
Macron ‘aims to revive colonialism’ in Lebanon
Erdoğan also touched upon a huge explosion that hit Beirut last week, leaving an almost flattened country with a collapsed economy.
“Turkey will continue to stand with Lebanon,” Erdoğan said, slamming French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Beirut immediately after the explosion.
“We did not go to Beirut to show off just like others did. We were there in line with our humanitarian and Islamic values,” Erdoğan said, accusing Macron of trying to “resurrect” French colonialism in the explosion-hit country.
Greece, France carry out joint maneuvers in E Med
With tensions mounting in the region after Athens’ controversial new pact with Egypt, Greek defense sources on Aug. 13 announced joint military drills in the Eastern Mediterranean along with France, another country that has sought to hem in Turkey’s maritime territory.
The exercise, including two French Rafale fighter jets, was held off the island of Crete after France announced on Aug 12that it would beef up its military presence in the region.
France’s decision came after President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held a phone call to discuss the latest situation in the region. “I have decided to temporarily reinforce the French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, in cooperation with European partners, including Greece,” Macron wrote on Twitter.
Hurriyet Daily News