The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has assured this Saturday that his country will not give in to the threat of sanctions or to maritime incursions into the territory it claims in the eastern Mediterranean.
The statements come two days after France sent military reinforcements to support Greece and Cyprus, amid the dispute over territorial waters and the hydrocarbon exploration that pits them against Turkey. Last week, Ankara sent a reconnaissance ship, the Oruc Reis, protected by warships, to study prospecting for fuel and gas in a territory whose sovereignty it claims.
“We will never bow to banditry on our continental shelf. We will never back down from the language of sanctions and threats, ”Erdogan told members of his party, the ruling Justice and Development (AKP), in the town of Rizem, in the northeast of the country. He Oruc Reis, which is located between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, will continue its work there until the 23rd, he added.
Last Wednesday there was a small collision between Greek and Turkish warships in the area.
This Friday, the foreign ministers of the European Union asked Turkey in an extraordinary meeting for an “immediate de-escalation” due to the increase in tensions and expressed their “total solidarity with Greece and Cyprus.” The EU has condemned Turkey’s actions in the past and has hinted at the possibility of imposing sanctions on the country.
Shortly before, Erdogan announced that he had agreed with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to initiate talks in order to “calm the situation.”
Tensions between Greece and Turkey, both members of NATO, are recently reaching a fever pitch. Athens and the EU claim that drilling from Ankara in the region is illegal. Turkey, on the other hand, denies that the area is within a Greek exclusive economic zone.
Erdogan assured Friday that one of the frigates accompanying the Oruc Reis he pushed back a Greek ship in response to harassment from it, but it is still unclear what happened during the engagement.