Turkey Urges EU States to End ‘Blind’ Support for Greece in Spat
Turkey urged southern European Union nations to change their stance on the dispute over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, saying the group’s “blind” support for Greece and Cyprus diminishes the chances of a resolution.
The Foreign Ministry in Ankara also said on Friday it wants to settle differences with other nations in the region diplomatically, and insisted Greece should agree to talks without the preconditions it has set.
Turkey has sparred with Greece and Cyprus in recent weeks over contested territorial waters where major natural gas deposits have been discovered. As Turkish exploration increased, the standoff sparked concern of a military confrontation between two North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and prompted a German-led diplomatic push for a resolution.
After a meeting hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, seven southern EU leaders called on Turkey to agree to negotiations or face potential sanctions.
In its response, the Foreign Ministry said signatories to the statement “need to abandon their one-sided and biased attitude under the disguise of solidarity.”
Solidarity shouldn’t be unconditional and can only be “shown with whoever is right when they are right,” it said.
A Turkish seismic research ship, the Oruc Reis, began surveying parts of the eastern Mediterranean that’s disputed by Cyprus and Greece in July. The ship’s activities were suspended to enable preliminary talks with Greece under German mediation but later restarted after Athens signed a maritime border deal with Egypt that angered the Turkish government.
The dispute comes down to conflicting interpretations of maritime law.
Greece says that islands must be taken into account in delineating a country’s continental shelf, in line with the UN Law of the Sea, which Turkey has not signed. Ankara argues that a country’s continental shelf should be measured from its mainland, and so the area south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo -- just a few kilometers off Turkey’s southern coast — therefore falls within its exclusive zone.
While Berlin has been trying to find a compromise to restart dialog between the two nations, France has increased political and military support to Greece. Athens is demanding Turkey take a step back from its exploration by withdrawing ships from contested waters in order for talks to take place.
During Thursday’s summit, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters that “the priority is to express strong, concrete solidarity to our friends Greece and Cyprus, in the face of unilateral actions by Turkey.”
EU leaders are due to focus on relations with Turkey at a Sept. 24-25 meeting in Brussels.
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