Ahead of an EU summit scheduled for December 10-11, Turkey has issued a new navigational telex (NAVTEX) announcing that its research vessel Oruc Reis will continue conducting seismic operations within the Greek continental shelf, with its foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stating that the country will not abandon its “sovereign rights” in the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
Antalya’s announcement reads that a firing exercise would take place on December 9 and 10 in the sea area between the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo, while the next day it said it would carry out “military exercises” on Monday in a zone southeast of Greece’s island of Crete.
Reacting to the announcement, EU Council President Charles Michel called on Ankara to stop the “cat-and-mouse game,” adding that in order for the EU-Turkey dialogue to move forward, Ankara must “stop bilateral provocations, aggressive statements and disrespect to international principles and rules.”
However, tensions between the two countries did not end there; the Greek PM Nikos Dendias’ op-ed article in the newspaper “Ta Nea”, titled “Turkey’s efforts to create a new Yalta,” has prompted an outcry by Ankara, with the two NATO allies being already at loggerheads over a number of issues.
In his article, Dendias accused Turkey of “conducting military operations in foreign territories, occupying parts of neighbouring states, threatening war, disputing the sovereignty and sovereign rights of European countries, transporting Jihadists, meddling in the internal affairs of other countries by supporting extremist movements, instrumentalising the migration crisis, and violating human rights domestically.”
He added that Turkey not only has become a “difficult neighbour,” but also “a clear threat to the stability of Europe, the wider Eastern Mediterranean region and, in general, the Arab world and the Caucasus.” In a statement Ankara refuted all of Athens’ arguments, citing that it is Greece that continues its “provocative and escalatory military activities” in the region.
“Greece cannot solve her bilateral issues with Turkey by relying on others, but only by sitting at the table and through dialogue and cooperation with Turkey,” reads a statement by Turkey’s Foreign Minister spokesperson, Hami Aksoy issued on December 6. The position was reiterated by FM Cavusoglu who supported that Athens is pursuing “maximalist” goals in the region.
“Greece, as the spoiled child of Europe, aims to provoke European Union sanctions on Turkey based on its maximalist and illegitimate maritime boundary and airspace claims,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Referring to the upcoming EU summit, where the scenario of sanctions is on the table, Cavusoglu made clear that Turkey will not abandon what it calls its “sovereign rights” in Kastellorizo or airspace covering 10 nautical miles.
“No sanctions will ever make Turkey compromise its sovereign rights in Kastellorizo or 10 nautical mile airspace,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that Athens should engage in “unconditional dialogue” with Ankara, “sooner rather than later.”
The bloc’s foreign ministers met on Monday to discuss the possibility of sanctions against Turkey over its illegal oil and gas explorations in the Eastern Mediterranean, and it was broadly agreed that Ankara had made no efforts to change its practices in the region.
Prior to the meeting, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had stressed that while Germany has “worked hard” to facilitate a dialogue between Ankara and the EU, “there have been too many provocations and tensions” that hinder any direct talks.
“For this reason, we will talk about what consequences we should draw – also with a view to the EU summit this week,” he added.