He was the first to congratulate new Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis after the Conservatives chief won the July 7 snap elections and now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he’s waiting to see what Greece will do about Turkey drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus.
Greece and Turkey, along with the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, which still has military bases there, are guarantors of security for the divided island where Turkish-Cypriots have occupied the northern third since a 1974 Turkish invasion.
Erdogan has sent two energy drill ships into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize and as foreign companies have been licensed by the legitimate government to drill there.
They include the American energy giant ExxonMobil, which has reported a major gas find, raising the stakes in the increasingly tense political gambit made by Erdogan, with the European Union and United States backing Cyprus and telling him to back off.
He hasn’t, and with Turkey having previously provoked Greece when the Radical Left SYRIZA was in power, Erdogan told Turkish media he wants to see what Mitsotakis plans to do about it as former Premier Alexis Tsipras said the European Union should set sanctions.
Erdogan noted that he and Mitsotakis have talked cordially previously but that was before the Conservatives chief took the mantle of power, with fears rising there could be a military conflict in the region and with the Greek Armed Forces at one point put on high alert.
Erdogan said that he wants to see if Mitsotakis keeps to “nice words,” the Greek-Turkish relations could improve through a standing bilateral committee, although he didn’t say what would happen if not.
Erdogan noted that research and drilling ships Yavuz and Barbaros are in place in Cypriot waters and will stay there, guarded by the Turkish Navy and Air Force and that he doesn’t care one whit what Cyprus, the EU or US think about it.