‘If Greece wants to pay a price, let them come’: Erdogan fires back at Athens as Mediterranean row escalates

Perhaps pouring more petrol into the flaming spat with Greece, the Turkish president ruled out making any concessions to Athens on the oil and gas discoveries in the contentious Mediterranean waters.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan picked a rather symbolic occasion to make the claims. He was speaking at a ceremony to commemorate a military victory by Seljuk Turks over the Byzantine Empire at the town of Malazgirt in the 11th century.

Turkey will take “whatever it is entitled to in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black seas, we will not make any concessions,” Erdogan said on Wednesday. 

The bulk of his fiery speech was devoted to Greece, which strongly objects to Turkey’s research drilling in the contested Mediterranean waters. Saying the modern-day Greeks are “unworthy of the Byzantine legacy,” Erdogan proceeded to veiled threats.

If it [Greece] wants to pay a price, let them come and face us. If they don’t have the courage for it, they should stand out of our way.

The waters of the eastern Mediterranean have been rather hot in recent days and weeks. Greece on Monday issued a warning advisory, known as a Navtex, that it will hold naval exercises in an area off Crete. One of them, dubbed ‘Eunomia’, started this Wednesday off Cypriot shores, involving ships from Greece itself, as well as Cyprus, France, and Italy.

Turkey has prolonged an oil exploration mission of the Oruc Reis survey ship in the same area, reinforcing it with several warships.

Meanwhile on the diplomatic front, Athens signaled that it’s open to talks with Ankara, but not under “military pressure.” Germany, which has assumed the role of mediator in the spat, likened it to “playing with fire,” and has liaised with Turkey and Greece in previous days. 

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File photo © Greek Ministry of Defence/Handout via REUTERS
Turkey’s Erdogan accuses Greece of ‘sowing chaos it can’t escape from’ in Mediterranean

Both sides appear to be ready to talk, according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who toured both capitals. “No one wants to settle this conflict militarily, which would be absolute madness,” he said on Tuesday, speaking alongside Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu.

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