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Ahead of Talks with Greece, Turkey Claims Seas Corridors

Αssociated Press

(Turkish Defense Ministry via AP, Pool)

Just as talks between the countries over seas boundaries were set to begin in Constantinople, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again invoked his Blue Motherland claim to much of the Aegean as well as the East Mediterranean and Black Sea and that he'll build naval and military might to defend it.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar first used that term to define a 462,000-square meter (4,972,926 square feet) swath in the seas with Turkey disputing Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and planning to drill off islands, including Kastellorizo near Turkey's coast as well as Crete.

“Today, as one of the 10 countries that can design, construct and maintain war ships, we will continue to boost our naval forces and protect the Blue Motherland in order to boost the sense of trust with our allies while continuing to defend our interests,” Erdogan said, reported Kathimerini.

He invoked the Latin saying, “If you want peace, prepare for war,” but said it came from Turkish forefathers, and that under that edict he would add to the arsenal of the army and navy.

He said that was being done “to safeguard peace and security in our country, our region and the whole world,” without explaining why that would undercut talks with Greece even before they've begun.

Erdogan twice sent the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and warships off Kastellorizo, withdrawing them first after being persuaded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then, he said, to give diplomacy a chance.

But that was after Greece sent part of its navy to shadow the Turkish vessels and began building an alliance against Turkish provocations, getting support from France, Cyprus, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Akar stuck to his guns too, saying tht Turkey will “continue to defend our interests in all the seas, particularly in the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea.”

Their comments came during the marking the anniversary of the 1538 Battle of Preveza in northwestern Greece in which an Ottoman fleet defeated a Christian alliance assembled by Pope Paul III, Turkey celebrating ancient victories but not defeats, such as when it was driven out of Greece 200 years ago.

Erdogan’s adviser Ibrahim Kalin earlier said the exploratory talks with Greece will focus on “the continental shelf, the economic zone and air space in the Aegean,” as Turkey keeps sending fighter jets into Greek air space.

It will be the first time in four years the two sides have talked and the first since Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' New Democracy took power in July 7, 2019 snap elections, ousting the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which had failed to get anywhere with Erdogan.

Greece said it will talk only about the Continental Shelf and has rejected Turkish demands to include other issues such as the rights of a Turkish minority in northeastern Greece near Turkey's border.

Turkey also issued a navigational telex (NAVTEX) for a naval exercise with live fire, reserving an area between Rhodes and Kastellorizo for Sept. 29 in an apparent show of force before the negotiations.