Speaking to a congress of his AKP party in Istanbul, Erdogan said that there should be no “concerns about Turkey’s presence from the eastern Mediterranean to the Black Sea, as well as in the Aegean, which old-timers called the Sea of Islands.”
He was referring to remarks by retired admiral, Cihat Yayci, one of the main architects of the “Blue Homeland” theory which envisions Turkish influence over vast swaths of the eastern Mediterranean.
Yaci has asked for the name of the Aegean to be changed, as it is Greek (the Turks call it “Ege”), and referred to it as the “Sea of Islands.”
Turkey will secure its rights “in all waters”
Erdogan stressed that Turkey will retain the right to have “a presence” in all the seas surrounding his country.
“We have a presence there with all our strength, with all our possibilities and we will continue to be there,” he declared, adding that Turkey will also secure all its rights “in all the waters that surround us.”
Erdogan went on to say that Turkey will strengthen its ties “with its brothers in the geographical areas within our cultural reach,” from the Balkans to the Caucasus and from Central Asia to Africa.
He also revisited the violent eviction of thousands of Greeks from Smyrna (modern-day Izmir) during the Greek-Turkish war of 1922.
“We spoiled their dreams then and we will do the same with similar dreams on our southeastern borders,” he said.
Tension in the Aegean
The incendiary rhetoric emanating from Ankara comes after Turkey accused the Greek military of harassing a Turkish research vessel in the west of the Islands of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea.
The Turkish Defense Minister claimed on February 22 that four Greek F-16 fighter jets harassed the research vessel Cesme, with one of them even dropping a type of flare used to deceive enemy radar two nautical miles from the vessel.
“It was an act of harassment, which our Greek neighbors carry out frequently. We gave the necessary response in line with rules,” Akar said.
Greek military sources flatly denied the incident, saying that no jets belonging to the Hellenic Air Force were near the area at the time.
Cesme is carrying out a hydrographic survey in the Aegean until March 2, which Athens has denounced as invalid and illegal.