Turkey: Erdogan warns Mitsotakis 'don't challenge me'
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Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Ankara has the right to defend its claim over vast areas of the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea, which he called the “blue homeland”. Speaking on Friday, he said: “We have no claims on anyone’s land or sea. Nevertheless, we will not back down on our rights.
“We are determined and capable of defending our rights across the ‘blue homeland’ as well as Cyprus.”
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan challenges Greek and Cypriot maritime laws which confine Turkey to narrow stripes of coastal waters in the region.
Greece claims sovereignty over the energy-rich waterways, stretching 200miles from its coastline as part of the UN Convention for the Law of the Sea.
Mr Erdogan appeared to provoke Greece during an address to his AKP party last Wednesday.
The Turkish leader branded the Mediterranean as the “Sea of Islands”, in a nod to retired admiral Cihat Yayci.
The former military leader is seen as a key figure in the “blue homeland” notion, which claims control over the waterways.
Mr Erdogan insisted there should not be “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”.
The warning from Turkey comes amid ongoing skirmishes in the seas and in the skies between the old foes.
Officials in Ankara claimed the Greek Air Force had “harassed” a research vessel as it sailed through northern Aegean waters last week.
Mr Akar added: “I am once again stressing that such behaviour is far from a gesture of good neighbourly relations.”
Athens has denied the allegation.
Relations between Athens and Ankara began to break down last year, when Turkey sent a vessel to the eastern Mediterranean.
Last August, the seismic research vessel was deployed near to hydrocarbon resources of oil and gas.
Greek officials said the Oruc Reis vessel entered waters owned by Greece and Cyprus – a claim rejected by Turkey.
Tensions erupted again last month when Turkey deployed another research vessel, this time into the Aegean Sea.
The Turkish Navy said the Cesme ship would be conducting a hydrographic survey from February 18 until March 2.
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Greek government spokesman Christos Tarantili said: “It’s an unnecessary move which does not help positive sentiment.”
Ankara insisted the boat was in international waters and was permitted to conduct research.
Greek and Turkish officials met in Ankara on January 25 to discuss the ongoing maritime dispute.
The summit came after a five-year hiatus but was unable to make a breakthrough.
A second meeting is due to take place later this month ahead of an EU summit.
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