Turkey's foreign minister warned Greece on Tuesday against taking missteps in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkey is ready to do "whatever is necessary" to protect its legitimate interests in the region.
Mevlut Cavusoglu's remarks came at a joint news conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas in the capital Ankara after they discussed a variety of issues, including the COVID-19 outbreak and developments in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean.
He also urged Greece not to "put itself at risk" by rising to the bait of "some countries" in the Eastern Mediterranean region but to instead act in line with reason so there are no conflicts in the region.
He did not name any countries, but Greece recently worked with France and Egypt against Turkish maritime foreign policy.
Cavusoglu stressed that the recent escalation in tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean is due to the approach of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, not Turkey's, citing Greece's military exercises in the region this week as proof.
Turkey is ready to discuss the Eastern Mediterranean issue with all countries in the region with the exception of the Greek Cypriot administration, which it does not recognize, he said, adding there should not be any preconditions.
Arguing that Greece was spoiled by unconditional support from the European Union, Cavusoglu said Athens contradicted itself by calling for the following of international law, which it violated.
Turning to the mistreatment of minority Turks in Greece, he cited how European human rights tribunals had ruled that these Turks in Western Thrace can call themselves "Turks," but Athens still does not allow this, in violation of the rulings, and the EU does not pressure Greece on this.
The most feasible way to transport hydrocarbon reserves drilled in the Eastern Mediterranean is through Turkey, and there is no alternative, Cavusoglu said and urged Athens to abandon unilateral impositions and instead pursue cooperation.
Cavusoglu underlined that Greece and the Greek Cypriots have pursued a "maximalist" agenda in the Eastern Mediterranean and held unilateral activities which have raised tensions.
The Greek government and Greek Cypriot administration should act in the light of reason, he said, adding: "If there was fair sharing here instead of unilateral impositions, this would benefit everyone."
- 'Escalation in Eastern Mediterranean helps no one'
During the news conference, Maas also underlined that escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean helps no one -- not the EU, Turkey or Greece.
“We have addressed the dangerous situation. It worries not only the EU, but also NATO allies,” he said.
Stressing that military intervention is not expected on this issue and that it would be “unwise,” Maas said: "It will be resolved through diplomacy. It may be hard, and it may proceed slowly, but there's faith in dialogue.”
“The important thing now is to take steps to reduce tensions and to be ready for sincere dialogue. I hear the readiness for dialogue on both sides. Therefore, I think these controversial issues can be resolved. This can only be done through direct negotiations between Greece and Turkey,” he said.
This week, Turkey and later Greece sent out conflicting alerts on energy exploration and military exercises in the Mediterranean.
Greece has disputed Turkey's current energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.
Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – has sent out drill ships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have rights in the region.
Dialogue for fair sharing of these resources will be win-win for all sides, say Turkish officials.
Reporting by Havva Kara Aydin, Ali Murat Alhas, Muhammet Tarhan
Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur