Escalating the incendiary rhetoric directed at Athens, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed again, after his return on Sunday from the Berlin conference on Libya, that the southern island of Crete does not have a continental shelf while also slamming Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for receiving Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar in Athens last week.
For its part, the Greek government has attributed the latest escalation in rhetoric to Erdogan’s dismay that he did not get to set the terms he wanted at the Libya summit in Berlin, while Mitsotakis responded that Greece does not deal with “challenges by resorting to rhetorical flashes, but by concrete political actions based on international law and the network of alliances we are methodically building.”
“Our certainty and confidence may cause nervousness on the other side of the Aegean,” he said.
He also sent out a message to Ankara that “our door is always open for an honest and sincere dialogue as long as this dialogue is based on international law and the basic premise that our one and only major difference with Turkey is the demarcation of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone.”
Speaking to reporters, Erdogan claimed that Turkey’s coastline faces that of Libya and that this is what made the maritime border deal between Ankara and the Tripoli-based government possible.
The deal which has been condemned as illegal ignores the presence of Crete and the Greek islands.
“They talk about a continental shelf around Crete,” he said. “There is no continental shelf around the islands, there is no such thing,” he said, noting that, “there, it is only sovereign waters.”
Referring to Haftar’s visit to Athens last week ahead of the Berlin summit, Erdogan said: “Why did Mitsotakis invite Haftar to Greece? Did he just want to provoke us?”
“A leader told me that Mitsotakis wants to bridge the gap between us. He really wants that and he invites Haftar to Greece? This is nonsense. I answered that he should first correct this mistake and then it will be easy for us to meet.”
He also went on to claim that he was in talks with Rome about drilling, but this was not confirmed by Italy’s stance in Monday's EU Foreign Affairs Council.
Egypt, meanwhile, has condemned Turkish drilling operations in Cyprus’ EEZ, while President Nicos Anastasiades was skeptical as to whether European sanctions could lead to a halt in Ankara’s aggression against the island nation.