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Cavusoglu Blames Greece, Cyprus for Eastern Mediterranean Tensions

Αssociated Press

Turkey s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. (Fatih Aktas/Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool)

ANKARA -- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu leveled accusations against Greece and Cyprus, while speaking at a Thursday video conference with the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Turkish minister said Ankara is ready for de-escalation and an "unconditional" dialogue with Greece and the EU, but he argued that the European Union has no jurisdiction over maritime borders and that it should remain impartial over Turkey's dispute with Greece.

"The current tension in the Eastern Mediterranean was provoked by the unilateral actions of Greeks and Greek Cypriots who violate the rights of Turks and Turkish Cypriots," he said.

"Greeks and Greek Cypriots are trying to form alliances against Turkey by isolating us and Turkish Cypriots," he added, citing agreements reached with France and Israel. He also accused Greece of "harassing" Turkey's research vessel Oruc Reis and of militarizing the islands, and also of harassing the Turkish, as he called it, minority in Thrace.

He said Turkey's strategy is two-dimensional: one is the definition of maritime zones based on International Law and the other is the protection of Turkish Cypriots and their rights.

MEP and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister reportedly briefed Cavusoglu on the Commission's position on the matter and of the European Union's solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, as well as Brussels’ demand for de-escalation and resolution of the crisis through dialogue. He also reportedly reminded the Turkish minister that the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean would be discussed at the next plenary session of the European Parliament and a resolution would be adopted.

In a statement, Cavusoglu said Turkey was not in favor of military action, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had instructed Turkish forces "not to shoot first" but insisted that "Greek forces are harassing us."

Regarding a possible appeal to The Hague, the Turkish Foreign Minister said that exploratory talks "on all open issues" and a bilateral agreement should precede any such move.

"If the Greek side has conditionalities, so will us," he said, stressing that Ankara "does not rule anything out."