Tensions escalated even further on Wednesday with a fresh bout of incendiary rhetoric from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who warned Greece that if it “wants to pay the price, let it come and face us.”
Erdogan had also earlier in the day warned Greece not to test his country’s patience or courage. “Turkey will take what is its right in the Mediterranean, in the Aegean and in the Black Sea,” he said.
Erdogan’s inflammatory statements sparked a new round of diplomatic initiatives, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaking on the phone with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening.
Mitsotakis reportedly thanked Trump for his interest and for the communication that took place while the Republican National Convention is still in progress and raised the issue of Turkey’s destabilizing actions in the region “which endanger peace and stability in the wider region and test the cohesion of NATO.” He also stressed that “Greece is ready to contribute substantially to the de-escalation provided that Turkey immediately stops its provocative actions.”
Also on Wednesday, it emerged from an open mic exchange in Berlin between the high representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, and German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks with the Turkish president again on Friday.
Earlier in the day, the Greek Parliament ratified the maritime zone agreement between Greece and Italy, while a vote will be held Thursday on the partial maritime delimitation accord with Egypt.
Despite a general consensus in Parliament Wednesday over the Egypt accord, opposition SYRIZA was critical of the government’s strategy and said it will vote “present” in Thursday’s vote.
Greece’s deal with Egypt, which effectively cancels out the “illegal” deal between the Turkey and Libya, has been denounced in turn by Ankara as invalid.
Mitsotakis also announced Greece’s intention to extend its territorial waters along its western coastline.
He said the government will soon submit a bill extending Greece’s territorial waters in the Ionian Sea from 6 to 12 nautical miles. Mitsotakis said Greece would thereby exercise an “inalienable sovereign right” in line with Article 3 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
He said that Greece could in the future extend its territorial waters in other maritime areas, in accordance with the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the application of the median line where the distance between the two shores is smaller than 24 miles. Turkey has warned that a similar move by Greece to the east would be a “casus belli” – a cause for war.