Turkey lashes out at Greece, France over drills in Med
Turkey has slammed Greece and France for holding military drills in the eastern Mediterranean and, therefore, escalating tension, urging that such military activities will not deter Turkey from protecting its rights and interests in the region.
“To believe that it would be possible to thwart the Turkish Armed Forces’ operations with exercises and similar activities is nothing more than a pipe dream,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Aug. 27 in an interview with state-run Anadolu Agency.
“You can have the EU, the world to stand by your side as much as you want. You cannot make two plus two to equal five. Two plus two will always be equal to four,” referring to a Turkish idiom, which means that something is very clear that its validity cannot be doubted.
Turkey and Greece are in a deep standoff because of the overlapping continental shelf claims in the eastern Mediterranean but the tension has unprecedentedly escalated as both countries deployed multiple warships to the area. Turkey conducts seismic work by the Oruç Reis research vessel, which is protected by Turkish frigates while France is holding an international military drill in the same area with the participation of French, Italian and Greek Cypriot armed forces.
“France is joining the drill and some countries from the Middle East are also coming. You can hold drills but our borders and principles are certain. If you violate them, what we will do is also certain. We probably said 50 times that this is not something we want,” Akar said.
“We always say we are in favor of dialogue. Dialogue must be essential. Otherwise, unwanted incidents may happen, and we have our plans to works accordingly.”
Akar conveyed that Turkey will continue to protect the Oruç Reis seismic research vessel, as well as other vessels, in the region as long as their works continue. “We do not have eyes on anyone’s soil, sea, rights or laws. But on the other hand, we will not even give a drop of our waters and will not let anyone cheat us of our rights,” he said.
‘Is France a guarantor state to Cyprus?’
“We are peacefully conducting the seismic survey. There are three French aircraft in Greek Cyprus. Why did they come here? Are you guarantors?” he said.
Akar’s words followed the Foreign Ministry’s earlier statement against the recent French military buildup in the region.
“The landing of the French military aircraft to the Greek Cypriot administration on the pretext of an exercise carried out with the Greek Cypriot administration, Greece and Italy, and the temporary or permanent deployment of these aircraft on the island is against the 1960 Treaties,” the spokesperson of the ministry, Hami Aksoy, said in a written statement.
Aksoy said that with this attitude, France, which is not the guarantor of Cyprus Island, dangerously encourages the Greek Cypriot administration and Greece, which are responsible for the current tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, to escalate tensions further.
France should apologize to Turkey
The Turkish defense minister also slammed his French counterpart Florence Parly over her remarks on the ongoing tension in the Mediterranean. “These remarks have nothing to do with the legality, intelligence illogic. They do not hold water. It’s impossible to understand,” he stated.
Akar also referred to a bilateral military incident off Libya in mid-June, in which France accused Turkey of hostile behavior against a French warship and repeated Ankara’s demand for an apology from Paris.
“Your claims were proven to be false [at NATO]. Hey France! You have to apologize to Turkey. You have no liberty to bring Turkey under suspicion by false claims in front of NATO ministers,” he stated.
He also informed that the issue was brought to the NATO military committee agenda on Aug. 24, but France wanted to skip it suggesting that “the issue has now become a political matter.”
“We will continue to make all sorts of initiatives to let this issue continue [to be discussed],” he added.
Does Turkey have no right?
Akar also complained that Greece is acting like everything belongs to it. “Doesn’t the 83 million population of Turkey have rights? This wrong and selfish approach is hurting them,” he said.
Turkey does not want to stage war and wants to resolve problems through dialogue, he underlined.
The minister reiterated that Turkey favors dialogue with Greece but is determined to protect its rights. “If our Greek counterparts agree, we would be pleased to host them here,” Akar said, recalling that the Turkish-Greek delegations held three round meetings so far.
“We would not allow our rights to be trampled on,” he added. “Turkey’s power should not be tested.”