Ahead of a flurry of diplomatic activity expected in September with regard to the Cyprus issue, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday warned that Ankara will “pursue an active policy” in the area stretching from the Aegean to Cyprus.
“We will pursue an active policy and strengthen our presence in all areas with problems that affect our national interests,” Erdogan said in comments that echoed a warning he issued a few months earlier to Athens and Nicosia, namely that Turkey plans to drill for gas in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Both Cyprus and Greece have expressed concerns that Turkish vessels may seek to drill within the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Earlier in the month, Erdogan said that Turkey will buy its second drilling vessel for explorations in order to “triple our efforts to get maximum benefits from hydrocarbon reserves in the sea.”
Tensions between Greece and Turkey appeared to de-escalate somewhat in recent weeks after the release on August 14 of the two Greek soldiers that had been held by Turkish authorities without charge since March.
Nonetheless, Turkey continues to accuse Greece of providing shelter to terrorists over the Supreme Court’s decision not to extradite the eight servicemen that Erdogan accuses of participating in the botched coup of 2016.
Moreover, analysts say the resumption of Turkish overflights in the Aegean is part of an effort to keep tensions simmering while Ankara wrestles with its financial crisis.
A litmus test of sorts about the state of relations between the two countries will be the meeting on September 4 between foreign ministers Nikos Kotzias and Mevlut Cavusoglu.