Responding to a reference made on Sunday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “sea bandits” in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos hit back on Monday saying “we all know who the pirates of the Aegean are.”
“The only ones who were never pirates, over the centuries, as you know, are the Greeks,” Kammenos said, following a meeting with US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at the Defense Ministry. “It is the United Nations Security Council that judges who the pirates are,” he said.
Erdogan was speaking at a ceremony to mark the commissioning of a third home-built Turkish corvette on Sunday, when he said that Ankara “will not leave the scene to the bandits of the sea” and warned that they will pay the price, as “the terrorists in Syria” were made to do.
He added that Turkey “will not tolerate attempts to seize” natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean that would exclude Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
Analysts have linked Erdogan’s incendiary rhetoric to planned drilling operations in plot 10 of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone on November 15 by energy giant company Exxon-Mobil.
Nicosia considers this particular drilling operation to be very significant, as estimates point to large reserves of natural gas in the area.
Meanwhile, the Exxon-Mobil drillship Stena IceMax has already entered the Mediterranean and is heading to the port town of Limassol in Cyprus, where it is expected to arrive in coming days.
In his comments on Monday, Kammenos said “Greece is not provoking anyone but neither will it yield an inch of the rights granted to it by international law and international treaties.”
He added that the borders of Greece are those of the European Union. “As a result, any violation of the sea, land or air borders of Greece are also a violation of those of the EU,” he said.
Ankara has already made its presence felt in the Eastern Mediterranean with exploration activities from its seismic research vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa.