Turkey’s president issued a thinly-veiled threat against Greece and Cyprus on Tuesday amid a series of incidents in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was addressing lawmakers from his ruling party in Ankara when he said: “Opportunistic attempts concerning gas exploration off Cyprus and concerning Aegean islets are not escaping our attentions.”
He also said those who “crossed their limits in Cyprus and the Aegean Sea should not make any miscalculation”.
The Turkish leader also explicitly linked his country’s controversial military operations in Syria to Ankara’s ambitions closer to home: “To us, our rights in the Aegean and on Cyprus hold the same significance as Afrin,” he said.
Erdogan’s latest outburst comes on the same day a Turkish ship rammed a Greek coastguard vessel near the Aegean islets of Imia.
The Greek government vowed to defend its sovereign rights following the incident early on Tuesday.
“The Greek government has repeatedly said that it will resolutely defend the sovereign rights of the country,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said.
Turkey has also drawn criticism from the European Commission over reports its warships harassed an Italian drillship in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides described the harassment of the ENI drilling ship in block 3 of Cyprus’ EEZ by six Turkish warships as a “pirate” move.
Last month Turkey’s opposition also weighed in on Aegean issues, with the country’s secular Republican People’s Party, headed by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, calling on Erdogan to clarify whether 18 islets in the Aegean Sea in fact belong to Turkey.
In comments translated by tourkikanea.gr, Kilicdaroglu included the small Greek island of Pserimos, close to the Turkish coast and home to around 80 people, asking “to whom does it belong? Is it ours or Greece’s?”