ATHENS – Reacting cautiously to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying says he will not permit what he called the seizing of natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean, Greek Foreign Ministry officials said he must respect the international laws he doesn’t recognize.
Speaking during the launching of a new Corvette for his country’s Navy, Erdogan’s bellicose statement was directed mostly at Cyprus, where he has sent warships to try to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas where they are licensed in the Exclusive Economic Zone which Turkey doesn’t recognize either.
Greece, along with Turkey and the United Kingdom, the former Colonial rulers who still have a military base there, are guarantors of security on the island, along with a small United Nations peacekeeping force.
“We will not be goaded by Turkey’s bouts of aggressive rhetoric,” Greek officials who were not identified said.
Turkey earlier sent the drilling ship Fatih into the Eastern Mediterranean, saying it will start exploring a few kilometers off its southern province of Antalya after former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said he wanted Greece to extend its sea borders in the Ionian Sea off western Greece from six to 12 miles with Turkey anxious it could be done in the Aegean too.
At the same time, the survey vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa continues to operate in the area reserved by Ankara’s NAVTEX through Feb. 2, 2019, which includes a segment of the Greek continental shelf and blocks 4 and 5 of Cyprus EEZ, said Kathimerini.
Turkey, which has sent warships past Greek islands, is also reserving maritime areas between Greece’s easternmost Kastellorizo island and Cyprus for military exercises.
Other senior Turkish officials have challenged the territorial status quo in the East Mediterranean with analysts saying the increase in Turkish activity in the area is a response to scheduled drilling in Cyprus’s EEZ by US giant ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he’s willing to share any potentially lucrative revenues from energy finds with Turkish-Cypriots who have unlawfully occupied the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion but Erdogan wants them to have a say in licensing drilling as well.