Turkey to remain in East Med, implement Libya deal – Erdoğan

(Adds sixth paragraph on Greek delegation)

Turkey will not pull back its drilling vessels from eastern Mediterranean and further implement a deal with Libya to extend the country’s maritime border, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday

“We will not give up our rights, or let Cypriot Turks’ rights to be trampled, or demand what is not our right,” Erdoğan said while speaking at the opening of the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP).

Tensions have been running high between Turkey and Greece, Israel, Cyprus and Egypt over hydrocarbon reserves in the waters off Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean region.

Ankara maintains that the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot enclave in the northern third of Cyprus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that is recognised only by Turkey, has a right to a share in the reserves.  

Four Turkish vessels, two drilling and two research ships, continue to look for natural gas in the region.

Erdoğan's vow for continued drilling in the region led to an attending Greek delegation, led by Deputy Environment and Energy Minister Dimitris Oikonomou, to withdraw from the pipeline inauguration ceremony in protest, Kathimerini reported. 

On Wednesday, Turkey and Libya’s internationally recognised Islamist-rooted Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) signed an agreement to redefine Turkey’s maritime borders.

Greece said the agreement between Turkey and Libya was “completely unacceptable” and “beyond all reason,” as it ignores the island of Crete.

The remaining steps of the agreement will go into effect, Erdoğan said. 

“From our drilling peace and prosperity will spring, not blood and conflict,” he said.