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Politics

Erdogan Pumps Up the Volume, Eyes Turkish Regional Expansionism

Showing no signs of relenting in his vow to drill for oil and gas off Greek islands as he's doing off Cyprus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will spread its interests and influence across the region and seas.

“As Turkey grows, its sphere of interest also grows from the Balkans, to the Cacuasus, to Iraq, to Syria, and to Libya,” Erdogan said after a cabinet meeting.

“We will not allow our rights in the Eastern Mediterranean to be violated,” he said, reported Kathimerini, a reference to Erdogan sending an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

The Greek Navy responded with part of its fleet, setting off a tense stand-off and worries about a conflict as the tension soared and planned talks between Greece and Turkey were called off by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Turkey favors a peaceful resolution of disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean, the country’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said, adding however that Ankara will not yield under duress, the paper said.

“Let's solve the problems by talking. However, everyone should have seen and understood that we won't submit to any fait accompli, coercion or pressure,” Akar said although Mitsotakis had already pulled back demands for European Union sanctions.

Akar said that Turkey will continue to protect the interests and the rights of “our brothers” on the occupied part of Cyprus, where Turkey is drilling in Cypriot waters and has had possession of the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

“We have not allowed and we will not allow our rights to be violated,” he said as Turkish officials go back-and-forth between offering diplomacy without concessions and warning of military action.

Turkey claims Greek waters, including around islands where it plans to hunt for oil and gas, under a maritime deal with Libya that no other country recognizes, Greece countering with a similar agreement with Egypt.

Erdogan doesn't recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne setting boundaries with Greece and has openly said he covets return of some Greek islands ceded away while declaring a “Blue Homeland” for Turkey that envisions expanding itself.

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