Thursday

1st Oct 2020

Erdoğan on Mediterranean dispute: 'We will not compromise'

  • Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not planning to back down, amid growing tensions with Greece (Photo: Reuters)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not giving up Turkish claims in the eastern Mediterranean, he said in a fiery speech.

"We will not compromise over what belongs to us ... We are determined to do whatever is necessary," Erdoğan said on Wednesday (26 August) in a speech on the commemoration of an 11th century military victory by Seljuk Turks over the Byzantine empire at Malazgirt.

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Erdoğan also warned Greece, saying: "If there is anyone who wants to pay a price, they are welcome to confront us. If not then, they should go away so we can handle our own business."

His comments came one day after German foreign minister Heiko Maas' visit to Ankara in an effort to mediate between Turkey and Greece.

After the meeting, Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Ankara was ready for EU mediation between Turkey and Greece "without preconditions", adding he expected the EU to act as an "honest and objective" mediator.

But Çavuşoğlu's opening now appeared less certain.

After a meeting of EU defence ministers in Berlin, German defence chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, that the talks with Turkey were not easy.

The comments were meant to be off the record, but a microphone was still on.

"How was it?" Borrell asked Kramp-Karrenbauer.

"Hard," she replied. "A little bit more smooth on the Greek side, but really hard on the Turkish side," she said.

"The Turks are very upset with this deal with Egypt," Borrell responded, referring to a recent agreement between Athens and Cairo on an exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean.

"They feel that the Greeks are not reliable," he added.

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on the other hand, said after telephone talks with US president Donald Trump that Athens was "ready for a significant de-escalation - but on condition that Turkey immediately stops its provocative actions".

Mitsotakis was referring to oil and gas exploration by Turkey's Oruc Reis vessel in the sea between Cyprus and Crete and the fact Turkish military ships were part of the convoy.

Turkey plans to extend the exploration mission of the Oruc Reis until 27 August.

Trump, from his side, expressed concern over the tension between Turkey and Greece and told Mitsotakis the two Nato allies "must commit to dialogue, which is the only path to resolving their differences," the White House said in a statement.

On 12 August, a Greek and a Turkish military ship collided in the eastern Mediterranean in what appeared to be an accident.

However, it increased fears that the stand-off between Greece and Turkey could escalate into a military clash.

Despite the efforts of Germany to mediate, it seems that the time is not ripe yet for a compromise between the two countries.

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