Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to supporters and the media after Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. [Turkish Presidency via AP]
In the wake of Thursday’s agreement designating an exclusive economic zone between Greece and Egypt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced it as invalid and announced drilling operations in areas outlined in the Turkey-Libya accord which Greece said was nullified by its deal with Egypt.
He also called off exploratory talks with Greece whose commencement on August 28 had been expected to be announced on Friday.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said, “While there was an initial understanding between us to start exploratory contacts, Turkey withdrew from this understanding.” He expressed the hope that “this is a temporary decision under the state of inexplicable anger, and I say inexplicable, because Greece took an absolutely legal action.”
He reiterated that Greece is willing to defend its positions in any court, such as the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
However, Erdogan told reporters, after participating in prayers at the former cathedral of Hagia Sophia, that Ankara had recently stopped drilling activities in the region at the initiative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but that Ankara was now launching new energy exploration.
“What are Greece and Egypt doing there?” he said, describing the agreement as “nonexistent.”
“Merkel asked me to stop drilling,” he said, adding that he told her, “If you trust Greece, the others, we will take a break for a few weeks, but we do not trust them.” Erdogan concluded by saying that “[the Greeks] did not keep their promises” and now the Barbaros vessel will continue drilling in the East Mediterranean.