ANKARA — He dispatched an energy research vessel guarded by warships toward the Greek island of Kastellorizo, but Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said negotiations are the only way out, amid rising fears of a conflict breaking out.
Turkey made the same offer earlier but said it was based on only Greece making concessions and giving up claims to some of the Continental Shelf and waters around Greek islands where Turkey wants to drill for oil and gas.
And while he held out a potential olive branch, he immediately blamed Greece for all the troubles and provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, the kind of belligerent talk that Greece said he wouldn't accept as blackmail.
Speaking to members of his ruling AK Party, Erdogan said the escalation of tensions in the region was caused by Greece, reported Reuters, which he said had to respect Turkey's rights while giving up some of its own.
"The path to a solution in the eastern Mediterranean is via dialogue and negotiation. We are not chasing any unnecessary adventures or seeking tensions," he said without explaining if he felt that way while he sent the research vessel and warships off the island of Kastellorizo.
Turkey and Greece belong to NATO but the defense alliance ran the other way and said it wouldn't intervene over repeated Turkish violations of Greek airspace and waters by Turkish fighter jets and ships even with a conflict possible.
The two countries dispute waters around Greek islands, some of which are so close to Turkey's coastline that Erdogan said he could shout to them, as he doesn't recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which set boundaries and ceded some islands to Greece he wants returned.
They are making overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the region, and tensions have risen since Turkey began exploration in waters Greece claims are sovereign territory, disputed by Turkey with the backing of the United States.
While he was mouthing negotiations to ratchet down tension, Devlet Bahceli, the leader of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) which is an ally of his ruling AKP Party, lashed out at Greece for “hostile behavior” in the East Mediterranean.
“To all those who cause provocations at sea, drawing awaits them,” Bahceli warned. “No one will be able to rid Turkey from the Mediterranean and entrap us in Anatolia,” he added, said Kathimerini of the outburst.