NEWS

Athens hits back at Erdogan

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Diplomacy, Turkey

Athens on Monday sought to send a stern message to Ankara after a photograph emerged over the weekend showing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in front of a map showing his country’s territorial waters extending nearly halfway across the Aegean Sea.

In comments on Alpha 98.9 FM, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias dismissed the photo as a “public relations stunt,” adding that Turkey could continue to “act like the region’s troublemaker” but Greece had no intention of responding in kind.

“States’ borders are not defined by whatever map some ministry decides to draw, but on the basis of international law,” Dendias said, referring to the photograph of Erdogan at the National Defense University in Istanbul.

He added that Turkey’s opinions belong to a “minority of one” – repeating a phrase used by former US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell in an interview with Kathimerini last year – and said such antics simply serve to “establish Turkey’s image as a violator.” “International law cannot be trumped by public relations stunts,” he said.

Dendias also took Turkey to task over its ongoing violations of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone in its search for hydrocarbon deposits. “Cyprus is an independent European Union state. It is clear that, along with its sovereignty, Turkey is also violating the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign rights. We hope Turkey falls in line,” he said.

Dendias’ comments followed a media storm in response to the photograph where Erdogan can be seen signing the visitors’ book at the National Defense University in Istanbul in front of a map that depicts nearly half of the Aegean Sea and an area up to the eastern coast of Crete as belonging to Turkey.

The map shows Turkey’s maritime borders stretching across the Greek islands of the eastern and southeastern Aegean to the Cyclades, and is titled “Turkey, Blue Homeland,” indicating a 462,000-square kilometer area that Ankara claims as its own.

Turkey is also shown as sharing sea borders with Egypt and Libya in such a way as to disregard Greek rights off Kastellorizo and Cyprus’ EEZ.

The development comes amid an escalation of tensions in the region including an increase in Turkish violations of Greek airspace and prospecting for hydrocarbons by Turkey off Cyprus.

In July the EU slapped sanctions on Turkey over its illegal drilling. In an apparent dig at recent comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, Erdogan remarked over the weekend that “no one has the right to question our presence there,” adding that the Eastern Mediterranean and Syria were crucial issues on which Turkey’s “survival” depends.

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