Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued with his incendiary rhetoric on Monday, issuing new threats and indirectly referring to Kastellorizo amid concerns that Turkey’s Oruc Reis research vessel will move further toward the Greek island in the coming weeks.
In comments that came just a few days after Erdogan spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is again seeking to mediate in the East Med crisis, and European Council President Charles Michel, Erdogan hit out at “the plans of those who try to lock a country of 780,000 square kilometers to its shores using an island of 10 square kilometers in the eastern Aegean,” an apparent reference to Kastellorizo.
“Those who are asserting themselves to us, when the time comes, I hope they do not pay a heavy price,” Erdogan said in comments after a cabinet meeting that were seen as also targeting France, which has aligned itself with Greece in the East Med crisis.
Also on Monday Turkey’s pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper reported that the next “stop” of the Oruc Reis research vessel will be off the coast of Kastellorizo and Rhodes – namely in Greece’s continental shelf.
The tone of both Erdogan and Yeni Safak’s claims were markedly different to that relayed by sources reporting after Erdogan’s telephone conversation with European Council President Charles Michel. Those sources suggested that Erdogan had proposed multilateral talks. Athens has said it cannot comment on such a prospect without any concrete proposal.
Michel also spoke on Monday with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and relayed the “full solidarity” of the European Union to both Greece and Cyprus ahead of his scheduled visit to Athens on September 15. Mitsotakis also spoke with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.
Turkish aggression in the East Med is to be a key focus of talks when Mitsotakis meets with French President Emmanuel Macron on the French island of Corsica on Thursday ahead of a “Med7” summit with the leaders Portugal, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Malta.
Mitsotakis and Macron will also talk about a defense procurement deal being discussed between their two countries, notably the acquisition of 18 to 20 Rafale fighter jets. Apart from the Rafale jets, Greece is also looking at procuring new frigates. Mitsotakis is expected to announce the details of the government’s procurement program this weekend.