Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emphasized that Ankara would make "no concessions" to Greece in the Mediterranean, warning Greece against any provocations, and emphasizing that his country would take 'what it deserves' in the Mediterranean, as well as the Aegean and Black seas.
"We will not compromise what is ours...We are determined to do whatever is necessary," Erdogan said, speaking at a ceremony Wednesday commemorating the anniversary of the Seljuk Turkish victory over the Byzantine Empire at the Battle of Manzikert in the year 1071.
"We invite our counterparts...to beware that any error could pave the way to their ruin," Erdogan added.
Erdogan's comments come in the wake of Greece's announcement Wednesday that the Greek, French, Italian and Cypriot navies would carry out three days of joint military exercises south of Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.
"Cyprus, Greece, France and Italy have agreed to deploy a joint presence in the eastern Mediterranean as part of a quadripartite cooperation intiative," the Greek Defence Ministry said in a statement. "The tensions and instability in the eastern Mediterranean have heightened disputes on issues concerning maritime space," the ministry added.
Greece accused Turkey of repeatedly violating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, making it necessary for quartet cooperation to "enhance security and stability in the wider region and ensure freedom of navigation."
The drills, dubbed the 'Eunomia' exercises, in reference to the minor Greek goddess of law and order, will run Wednesday through Friday off the southern course of Cyprus.
The French military confirmed its participation in the drills in a statement Wednesday, saying three Rafale jets and a frigate will take part.
Hydrocarbon Dispute Fuels Escalation
Erdogan's comments come following a statement by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Tuesday warning that Greece was ready to "defend its sovereign rights" in the Mediterranean dispute.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that "the current situation in the Mediterranean" is "equivalent to playing with fire," and added that "every little spark can lead to catastrophe."
Greece and Turkey held separate naval drills near one another off Crete on Tuesday, with Athens announcing the exercises and Ankara reciprocating after Turkey extended its Navtex advisory around the Oruc Reis, the Turkish ship at the heart of the dispute that's drilling in an area off Antalya which Greece says is part of its maritime exclusive economic zone.
The dispute, which began earlier this month after the Oruc Reis began its drilling activities, has prompted both NATO nations to considerably beef up their presence in the Mediterranean, as well as the Aegean Sea - home to a separate, decades'-long spat over which country has rights to what islands.
The Turkish surveying ship began its operations just days after Greece and Egypt signed a maritime agreement on August 6 designating a vast, potentially hydrocarbon-rich area of the eastern Mediterranean Sea as their exclusive economic zones. Turkey, which signed an exclusive economic zone agreement with the Ankara-backed government in western Libya in late 2019, called the Greek-Egyptian deal illegitimate. Athens and Cairo, meanwhile, have dismissed the Turkish-Libyan deal, with the Greek government pointing out that it runs near major Greek island formations including Crete and Rhodes. Turkey says the area is part of its continental shelf.