Turkey's maritime doctrine author has dire warning for France
The father of Turkey's new maritime doctrine told AFP that France's decision to send warships to help Greece out in its Mediterranean standoff with Ankara was adding "fuel to the fire".
While he might be retired, the "Blue Homeland" vision that Rear Admiral Cem Gürdeniz helped craft over a decade ago is being turned into reality by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today.
As warships from France, Greece and Turkey converged on a disputed patch of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Gürdeniz looked at ease while criticising French President Emmanuel Macron.
"I'm fed up with Macron's everyday verbal threats," Gürdeniz said in English.
"For many Turks now, France is acting like an 'enfant terrible'. Can you imagine, they are threatening Turkey?" he asked.
"If France continues such provocative actions... that would not serve regional peace and stability - that would add fuel to the fire and France should avoid that."
Gürdeniz told AFP that if "Greece pulls the trigger, it will be the end of NATO."
"European countries should put pressure on Greece so that it abandons" some of its maritime claims, he said.
Gürdeniz said that Turkey should think with "cold blood, soberly [and] prudently," suggesting that hostilities will only end when Greeks and Turks sit down and frankly talk their problems out.
The retired admiral also welcomed the "growing interest of young people" in Turkey's maritime claims.
"I do a lot of interviews with YouTubers," said the retired admiral, pointing out that the annual enrolment of new cadets in navy schools is steadily rising.
He also pointed out that the Mediterranean accounted for just "one percent" of the world's oceans and seas.
"I always stress that Turkey should go beyond this one percent: the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Atlantic," Gürdeniz said. "Turkey should have a presence down there. This is the reflection of a growing power."
Opposed by Athens and the Greek Cypriot administration, Turkey has sent energy exploration vessels out along its continental shelf, in areas it declared years ago to the UN.
The Turkish ship Oruç Reis went on a mission two weeks ago, along with the vessels Cengiz Han and Ataman.
NATO, as is customary in disputes between member states, has not taken a stand on the situation.
Based on small Greek islands just off the coast of Turkey, Athens and the Greek Cypriot administration have sought to illegally confine Turkey to its shores, although it has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean.
Turkey has urged dialogue to reach a win-win solution under a fair sharing of the region’s maritime energy resources.
Presiden Erdoğan has said the only solution to the dispute lies through dialogue and negotiation and urged Athens to respect Turkey’s rights.