A war of words has escalated between Turkey on one hand, and Greece and France on the other hand over Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Paris to “pay a price” for interfering in the dispute between Ankara and Athens.
“Turkey, in the eastern Mediterranean in particular, will not bow to threatening, intimidation and blackmailing language, will continue to defend its rights arising from international law and bilateral agreements,” Erdogan said.
“It is absolutely not a coincidence that those who seek to exclude us from the eastern Mediterranean are the same who attempted to invade our homeland a century ago,” he wrote on the guestbook of the mausoleum of Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the capital Ankara on Sunday, marking the 98th anniversary of the Victory Day over Greek troops during Turkey’s war of independence.
He lashed out at leaders of France and Greece, calling them “greedy and incompetent.”
Erdogan asked newly-commissioned officers in Ankara: “Do Greeks accept what could happen to them because of their greedy and incompetent leaders? “Do the French know the price they will pay because of their greedy and incompetent leaders?”
“When it comes to fight, we will not hesitate to make sacrifices. The question is: when they stand against us in the Mediterranean, are they ready to make the same sacrifices? To our enemies, we say: Bring it on!”
Ankara is intransigent about the European threat to impose sanctions for its gas exploration in the disputed areas with Greece. It announced Saturday fresh military maneuvers in northern Cyprus.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay also warned Greece not to expand its coastal zone into the Ionian Sea by six nautical miles under international maritime law, saying it would be a “casus belli” that could lead to armed conflict.
Meanwhile, Greece slammed the Turkish “megalomania,” following statements by Erdogan’s advisor, in which he hinted at a potential war.
Energy Minister Kostis Chatzidakis reproached Turkey for pursuing 19th-century politics with threats of war.
“The megalomania and self-importance on the other side of the Aegean are a bad advisor,” Chatzidakis told the Skai news channel.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister warned Greece against doubling its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea from six to 12 nautical miles.
“They cannot extend it to 12 miles. The decision taken by our Assembly years ago is valid. This could cause war,” said Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Greece had previously made agreements with Egypt, Israel, and Greek Cypriot. They are political moves against Turkey but not feasible, he noted on the recent Greece-Egypt maritime deal.
“This is our continental shelf and the approval of both states [Greece-Egypt] to the agreement would not change much for us,” he added.
Paris, for its part, denounced Sunday Ankara’s “escalating behavior.”
“Turkey objects the existence of exclusive economic zones, and questions the sovereignty of two EU member states, Greece and Cyprus, and may endanger a fundamental right, which is freedom of navigation,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly told Europe-1 radio station.
In this context, and in light of the severe tension between Ankara and Athens, a survey published by Ankara-based polling company “MetroPoll” on Saturday revealed that 59.7 percent of those surveyed want a diplomatic end to the eastern Mediterranean issue.
A total of 31.7 percent of those surveyed wanted Turkey to use military force if necessary while 8.6 percent had no answer as to how to resolve the issue.