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Turkey threatens Greece over disputed Mediterranean claims

September 6, 2020

President Erdogan has issued the warning a day before his forces launch military drills in the region. Locked for weeks in a tense standoff, the crisis is the most serious in Turkish-Greek relations in decades.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Image: Reuters/PPO/M. Cetinmuhurdar

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday threatened Greece to enter talks over escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean or face consequences.

"They will understand that Turkey has the political, economic and military strength to tear up immoral maps and documents," he said at a hospital's opening ceremony in Istanbul.

Erdogan was referring to disputed areas claimed by Greece and Cyprus as their exclusive economic maritime zones. All sides have deployed naval and air forces to defend their competing claims in the region. 

"They're either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences," Erdogan said, adding: "As Turkey and the Turkish people, we are ready for every possibility and every consequence."

Turkish newspaper the Cumhuriyet reported that 40 tanks were being transported from the Syrian border to the northwest Turkish city of Edirne and carried photographs of armored vehicles loaded on trucks.

Turkey vs Greece: Is Erdogan willing to risk war?

Read more: Opinion: Greece and Turkey have to sacrifice to find real compromise 

'Illegal' actions

Erdogan's warning came after NATO said military officers from Greece and Turkey had begun technical talks to avoid armed conflict or accidents.

Ankara is prospecting the disputed territory for energy reserves but Greece claims the area to be its own continental shelf.

Turkey accuses Greece of snatching an unfair share of maritime resources while both Greece and Cyprus have accused Turkey of breaching their sovereignty by drilling in the waters.

Simulated dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighter pilots have multiplied over the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. A Turkish and a Greek frigate collided last month, reportedly causing minor damage to the Turkish frigate but no injuries. 

The European Union, which counts Greece and Cyprus as members, has threatened possible sanctions against Turkey over its "illegal" actions.

But Erdogan on Saturday made it clear that he would not compromise. "Turkey is ready for any kind of sharing (of energy resources) as long as it is fair."  He stressed that Turkey was "ready for every eventuality and result."

mvb/sri (AFP, AP)

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