ATHENS – Firing back at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for comparing Greece to “sea bandits, “ Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said, “We all know who the pirates of the Aegean are.”
“The only ones who were never pirates, over the centuries, as you know, are the Greeks,” Kammenos said after meeting US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at the Defense Ministry. “It is the United Nations Security Council that judges who the pirates are,” said Kammenos.
He is the leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior coalition partners in the government headed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, their alleged ideological enemy.
Erdogan was speaking at a ceremony to mark the commissioning of a third home-built Turkish corvette he said his country “will not leave the scene to the bandits of the sea” and warned that they will pay the price, as “the terrorists in Syria” were made to do.
He added that Turkey “will not tolerate attempts to seize” natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean that would exclude Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots. Turkey has sent warships past Greek islands and positioned off Cyprus in bid to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas in waters where they are licensed.
Turkey doesn’t recognize the Law of the Sea nor parts of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – nor Cyprus, a member of the European Union that Turkey wants to join even as it bars Cypriot ships and planes.
Analysts have linked Erdogan’s incendiary rhetoric to planned drilling operations in plot 10 of Cyprus’ EEZ by energy giant company Exxon-Mobil with Cypriot officials confident the US Navy would protect the American company’s operation if needed.
The Exxon-Mobil drillship Stena IceMax has already entered the Mediterranean and was headed to the port town of Limassol in Cyprus, where it is expected to arrive in coming days.
Kammenos said “Greece is not provoking anyone but neither will it yield an inch of the rights granted to it by international law and international treaties,” and will defend itself.
He added that the borders of Greece are those of the European Union. “As a result, any violation of the sea, land or air borders of Greece are also a violation of those of the EU,” he said.
Turkey has sent its own energy research vessel into the Eastern Mediterranean while demanding a share of any potentially lucrative revenues from energy findings off Cyprus and wants Turkish-Cypriots to take part in the licensing of companies even though they have unlawfully occupied the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion.