Pangalos tells Ankara to back off

In a sharp rebuke to Turkish authorities and their increasingly aggressive stance against Nicosia?s plans to drill for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean, Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos told Parliament on Friday that Athens would regard ?any attack against Cyprus as an attack against Greece.?

?Cyprus is an independent member of the United Nations and has the right to independently determine its interests, alone or in cooperation with other countries,? Pangalos said in reference to Cyprus?s plans to cooperate with Israel in exploration with a US energy firm.

Pangalos also suggested that all political parties meet to discuss growing tensions in Thrace, a region in northern Greece which has a large Muslim minority that Turkish authorities insist on referring to as ethnic Turks. The deputy premier said measures should be taken to avert the impact of Turkish policies that could wreak ?irreparable damage.?

Responding to a question tabled in Parliament by the leader of the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, Pangalos described as ?a big mistake? the creation of a Turkish Consulate in the northern city of Komotini, the capital of Thrace. ?It shouldn?t have been set up there. There is no need for a consulate in Komotini,? Pangalos said in a response to Karatzaferis, who had suggested that Turkish authorities were using the Komotini consulate to ?spread propaganda.? The LAOS leader called on the government to shift some of its focus toward foreign affairs, claiming that Greece?s engrossment in its financial problems was being exploited by Ankara.

Meanwhile in Nicosia, Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias called for the country?s National Guard to show ?vigilance and readiness vis-a-vis Turkish arrogance and threats,? noting that Ankara was trying to intimidate Nicosia into abandoning its plans to drill for oil and gas in the region.

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