Describing Turkey as a “blue homeland,” the country’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar warned on Wednesday that Ankara will not give up on its rights in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We continue our struggle in our blue homeland. We clarify that this concerns the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus and elsewhere. There is also the exclusive economic zone, and this is important,” he said in a speech to a conference of Turkish entrepreneurs, adding that “we will defend our rights under international law, good conduct and good neighborliness and we will not give up on any of them.”
“We are determined to defend the rights of the Turkish Republic and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and we will not take steps back. We have told this to our counterparts at every opportunity. We have taken all the necessary measures and will continue taking them,” he said.
At the same time the spokesperson for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Omer Celik, warned Greece not to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean from 6 to 12 nautical miles.
“Turkey will respond harshly if Greece tries to gradually extend its territorial waters,” he said.
Turkey upped its incendiary rhetoric with regard to its maritime border with Greece after Athens announced it may partially extend its territorial waters, and has warned that any unilateral move will be a casus belli (case for war).
The Turkish statements on Wednesday came just a couple of weeks before ExxonMobil begins drilling operations in Block 10 in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone.
Against the backdrop of the recent rhetoric, the Nemesis 2018 aeronautical exercise began on Wednesday in the Eastern Mediterranean with participation of Cyprus, Greece, Israel, the US, France and the UK – an event that will secure the presence of third powers in the region in view of the Turkish threats.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) has begun operations in the Eastern Mediterranean with its deepwater drillship Fatih, the company’s acting CEO, president and director Melih Han Bilgin told a Turkish parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
This development is a “game-changer” for Turkey in offshore oil exploration, Bilgin said, revealing that Turkey is planning to build its own drilling machine.