Greek Defense Chief’s Retort to Turkish Drilling Threat: “Let Them Try”

ATHENS — Ripping Turkey for saying it wants to negotiate over Aegeean and East Mediterranean seas boundaries while planning to drill for energy, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos fired back a warning of his own. “Let them try.”

It wasn’t exactly the famed Molon Labe – “Come and Get Them” – cry of King Leonidas, telling the Persians to try to take away the weapons of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. but a shot across Turkey’s bow nonetheless.

“The presence of Turkish drill ships in Greek waters is a violation of our national sovereignty and we will not allow it,” he said after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said drill rigs would be sent off Crete and into Greek waters and the country’s Continental Shelf, which Turkey disputes.

That would be done under a deal Turkey signed with Libya dividing the seas between them, unrecognized by no other country, which led Greece to make a similar deal with Italy over the Ionian Sea and invite Albania to join the pact.

Indicating that Greece wouldn’t negotiate with a gun to its head, Panagiotopoulos told SKAI TV that, “dialogue is impossible “when Greece’s sovereign rights are being directly challenged,” similar to what he also told Alpha TV.

His “Let Them Try” riposte was given in an interview with Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung  when asked what Turkey’s response would be to any efforts by Greece to prevent exploratory drilling for hydrocarbon deposits.

“No one will dare stop our drillships … if they want an escalation, we will respond,” he said, although Turkey said its energy ships would be escorted by warships, setting up the potential for an accidental or deliberate conflict that could escalate.

Cavusoglu also claimed that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had “wanted” dialogue with the Greek government when New Democracy was elected in July, 2019, but said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – who offered goodwill negotiations – didn’t want to talk.

A sit down would only be possible, Panagiotopoulos said under a basic rule that Turkey has repeatedly disdained: “Turkey would have to demonstrate a spirit of good neighborly relations and respect for international law.”

Turkey, he also added, “is behaving like a regional troublemaker, mischief-maker or bully, and this is no way to hold talks.”


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