ATHENS – With Turkey signing a deal with Libya dividing the seas between, including Greek waters near islands and planning to drill off Crete, the New Democracy government said it’s satisfied with backing from the European Union which can’t stop Turkey.
The EU issued a press release supporting Greece but did not issue any sanctions after having imposed only soft measures against Turkey for drilling in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone and as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ignoring the bloc’s leaders, is going full speed ahead.
The European Council, comprised of the 28 heads of state, issued a statement of solidarity that was good enough for Greek Premier and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis who said that Greece’s sovereign rights will not be compromised.
He said the EU would stand behind Greece even if Erdogan makes good on a threat to flood the bloc – through Greek islands – with millions more refugees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war and strife in other countries, especially Afghanistan and Syria.
There was no explanation what that meant as the EU does not have an army or any military might and is limited to issuing denunciations ranging from concern to deep concern to grave concern, all of which Erdogan has ignored.
Speaking in Brussels after the European Council’s declaration condemning the Turkey-Libyna deal that’s been ratified in Turkey but not in Libya which is a country divided between a western-backed alliance and rebels with control the Parliament, Mitsotakis said if Erdogan uses migrants to “blackmail” the EU that there would be repercussions.
“Greece will not make the slightest compromise on these matters,” he said as his government has soft-pedaled Turkish aggression and called for calm even as Erdogan said he would have his ships drill in Greek waters as they are doing off Cyprus, defying the legitimate government on the island with Turkey has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion.
Hailing the “full support” the EU gave him, Mitsotakis said that his government will continue to defend Greece’s rights “in any way that is appropriate,” said Kathimerini, although he didn’t say if that means using the Navy or military or force.
He said that Turkey is “irritated” because it is “desperately isolated after signing its memorandum of understanding with Libya,” although Erdogan – with Turkey not recognizing the United Nations Law of the Seas unless in its favor – has asked the UN to back the agreement.
Mitsotakis noted the support given Greece by French President Emmanuel Macron who told a news conference that, “as I did at the NATO summit, we expressed … our full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece given the Turkish provocation in the Eastern Mediterranean,” adding lip service.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias also lauded the support, saying, “The country is extremely satisfied,”although Turkey has ignored the EU and the press releases and is forging ahead. The EU has the power to stop accession talks but hasn’t and Greece still supports Turkey’s bid.
Showing Turkey’s disdain for what the EU said, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said his country will start seismic research within sea zones included in the accord, some of which are in Greek waters with no report whether the Greek Navy will respond.
The United States, which has a military cooperation agreement with Greece and has a major naval base at Souda Bay on Crete, has said nothing as President Donald Trump said he considers Erdogan a friend and hasn’t denounced the deal with Libya while claiming Greece an ally.
Donmez reportedly told the Turkish Parliament the Libyan deal become the “law of the land” after being ratified by lawmakers earlier this month and that his ministry is working on delineating blocks where seismic surveys will be carried out “immediately after New Year’s.”
“Have no doubt that we will do what must be done,” he reportedly said.