Erdogan escalates tension as Tsipras warns of serious consequences

Erdogan escalates tension as Tsipras warns of serious consequences

A war of words erupted on Tuesday between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Ergodan over hydrocarbon rights in the Eastern Mediterranean and the southeastern Aegean, with the former warning Ankara of serious consequences if it continues to violate international law. 

In response to comments by Erdogan that Turkey will continue exploring for hydrocarbons in the region and that it will prevent any efforts that “ignore” the rights of Turkey and the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus, Tsipras warned that Ankara’s relations with the European Union will be severely disrupted if it “violates international law [and] the sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus.” 

“[Turkey] should know, they will pay a heavy price,” Tsipras said during a visit to Cyprus to attend the funeral of former president Demetris Christofias. He also berated Turkey for essentially bullying Nicosia by conducting drilling in the island’s exclusive economic zone. 

“It is not a show of strength, but of weakness,” he added. 

Earlier in the day, Erdogan dismissed remarks last week by Tsipras warning that Greece would not allow Turkey to drill off the southeastern Aegean island of Kastellorizo, telling lawmakers of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) that “the prime minister of Greece has been talking on his own, but regardless of what he says, we have rights there.” 

“In the name of defending our rights, our research and drilling vessels will continue explorations,” Erdogan added in what was seen as a forceful reiteration of Ankara’s energy designs in the Eastern Mediterranean region. 

Tsipras said in response that “the Greek prime minister is not talking on his own as he has the European Union on his side, all its member-states, the large majority of the international community and all countries in each corner of the planet and especially in our own region that respect international law and the law of the sea.” 

The sense in diplomatic circles is that Erdogan’s intention is to create faits accomplis in the Eastern Mediterranean which will make it very difficult for Athens and Nicosia to reverse. And his remark that “we have four ships in the area and we have taken measures” is viewed in this context.

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