Erdogan ups ante over energy as Kammenos hits out over Greek soldiers


Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan on Tuesday intensified his rhetoric against both Nicosia and Athens, saying that a hydrocarbon exploration vessel had been dispatched to the Eastern Mediterranean and warning against “attempted drillings” off the coast of Cyprus. 

Ankara will not allow the interests of Turks in the occupied north of Cyprus to be affected, Erdogan declared during a speech at the presidential palace in Ankara, saying that any activity in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone needs to include both sides. 

Turkey’s stance toward exploration projects for oil and natural gas in the area has “hopefully taught some a lesson,” Erdogan said, referring to efforts to block Italian energy company Eni from drilling in Cyprus’s EEZ last month. 

“Turkish and Greek Cyprus should form a joint committee for drilling activities and both sides should get their fair share of the island’s natural resources based on their populations,” he said. 

“We will never allow some to behave opportunistically in our immediate vicinity, especially in the Aegean and Cyprus,” Erdogan said in a clear dig at Nicosia and Athens over oil and gas exploration and territorial disputes.

The tough talk from Ankara came as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his coalition partner Panos Kammenos, who is also defense minister, met to discuss the detention of two Greek soldiers who accidentally crossed the border into Turkey on March 1.

Although the meeting was ostensibly about the soldiers, Kammenos’s comments afterward focused on emphasizing the government’s cohesion following rumors of a rift.

Describing the coalition as “a government of honorable, political cooperation,” Kammenos said its two goals were to get Greece to a post-bailout phase and to curb corruption.

“We are very close to fulfilling both goals,” he said. 

Later though, Kammenos criticized Turkey’s detention of the two Greek soldiers, saying that its handling of the case was reminiscent of “Midnight Express.”

The nonfiction book became the basis of a 1978 Oscar-winning movie featuring scenes of abhorrent prison conditions and police abuse.

Kammenos said Athens was not planning to exchange the two soldiers held by Turkey for eight Turkish servicemen seeking asylum in Greece.

He added that Turkey has so far made no such request.