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After Greece-Egypt EEZ Deal, Erdogan Cancels Cool-Down Talks

Αssociated Press

Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to supporters and the media after Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia, with iconic Blue Mosque in the background, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

ANKARA -- A deal Greece signed with Egypt to set boundaries in the seas and designate Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) so rankled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who made a similar deal with Libya – has called off talks aimed at lowering tensions.

Erdogan said the Greece-Libya deal was invalid after he said the agreement Turkey made with Libya – which led to Turkey claiming waters off Greek islands and planning to drill off Kastellorizo, Rhodes, Kos and Crete – was legal.

No other country accepts the Turkey-Libya deal even though Turkey submitted a map to the United Nations, asking for ratification of the boundaries that claim parts of Greece's Continental Shelf.

At the last moment, Turkey pulled back an energy research vessel and warship from going off Kastellorizo, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel intervening in a call to Erdogan to persuade him not to proceed.

After that, Greece and Turkey said there would be exploratory talks in Ankara to find ways to settle their dispute over the seas and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis suggested it could go to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said, “While there was an initial understanding between us to start exploratory contacts, Turkey withdrew from this understanding,” the newspaper Kathimerini said.

Dendias said he hoped, “This is a temporary decision under the state of inexplicable anger, and I say inexplicable, because Greece took an absolutely legal action,” after the Greek government said it wouldn't negotiate with a gun at its head.

Erdogan told reporters, after participating in prayers at the newly-designated Agia Sophia mosque, converted from an Orthodox cathedral on his orders, that because of the Greece-Egypt deal he's ready to give the order for research in the seas again.

the former cathedral of Hagia Sophia, that Ankara had recently stopped drilling “What are Greece and Egypt doing there?” he said, describing the agreement as “nonexistent.”

“Merkel asked me to stop drilling,” he said, adding that he told her, “If you trust Greece, the others, we will take a break for a few weeks, but we do not trust them.”

Erdogan concluded by saying that “(the Greeks) did not keep their promises” and the Barbaros vessel will continue drilling in the East Mediterranean, with oil and gas explorations off Cyprus and Turkey planning to enter the Aegean.