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Turkey's Foreign Chief Says Greece, Cyprus Wrongly Claiming Seas

Αssociated Press

Turkish Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu talks to the media during a press conference after a meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Athens, Monday, May 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

As his country claims waters around Greek islands and is drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it's Greece pushing a dispute over rights in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.

“The reasons behind tensions ... in the Eastern Mediterranean in recent years are the maximalist maritime claims of Greece and of the Greek Cypriot administration, as well as their unilateral actions which disregard the rights of our country and those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC),” Cavusoglu said.

That was in reference to the occupied northern third of Cyprus which only Turkey recognizes while refusing to recognizing Cyprus – a member of the European Union that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005.

Cavusoglu accused Greek-Cypriots of snubbing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call last year for negotiations over energy exploration rights there and a similar Turkish-Cypriot proposal earlier for a joint committee on offshore energy reserves.

“While all these proposals are on the table, the unilateral and provocative activities of Greece and (Cyprus) appear to be fueling tension in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said, reported Kathimerini.

He didn't mention Turkey drilling off Cyprus in defiance of soft EU sanctions wjle the United Nations has ignored Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades' call for the international body to intervene to stop it.

Cavusoglu said that Cypriot plans to hunt for energy and Greece's licensing of the Maltese-flagge Nautical Geo energy research ship to do exploratory work off Crete for a gas pipeline – before it was warned off by Turkish warships - “will increase tension and threaten peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Turkey “is taking all the necessary steps” to stop unilateral actions by Greece and Cyprus, Cavusoglu said, warning them to back off or face the consequences.

“Our country will continue to decisively protect its interests and those of TRNC in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said, without mentioning the Turkish-Cypriot side rejected Anastasiades' offer to give them 30 percent of potentially lucrative revenues although they make up only about 20 percent of the island's population.