Athens blasts Turkey for activities in Mediterranean, Aegean

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias accused Ankara on Wednesday of threatening security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, by creating problems with all of its neighbours and violating of Greek airspace and territorial waters on a daily basis.

Dendias slammed Turkey’s recent activities in the Aegean Sea, urging Ankara to “abstain from its illegal gunboat diplomacy,” AP reported.

The Greek foreign minister’s comments arrive during a visit to Greece’s northeastern border with Turkey, where he was accompanied by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Ankara and Athens are at loggerheads over oil and gas exploratory drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. In November, Turkey and the U.N.-recognised government in Libya signed a maritime boundary agreement which claims parts of the Mediterranean, a move Greece, Cyprus and Egypt maintain infringes on their sovereign rights.

Athens and Ankara are also in conflict over territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, which separates the two countries.

Earlier this year, Turkey opened its side of the border with the European Union, prompting thousands to gather at the country’s northwest frontier with Greece.

Turkey exploited “the hopes of tens of thousands of civilians for a better life... misled through a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Turkish officials at the highest level,” Dendias said.

Turkey is also “continuously violating the sovereignty of Libya, Syria, Iraq and our EU partner, the Republic of Cyprus. It is violating almost daily Greece’s national airspace and territorial waters, including overflights of inhabited areas here in Evros and the Aegean Sea by armed warplanes,” Dendias said.

Turkey maintains a military presence in war-torn Libya and has launched cross-border operations targeting Kurdish armed groups in Syria and Iraq that Turkey sees as national threats.

U.S. Professor Ryan Gingeras told Greek weekly newspaper Ethnos that there should be a more concerted effort to deter Turkey from its activities in the region.

“What does appear to be the case is that so far this has not necessarily become an issue of supreme importance for the European Union,’’ Gingeras said.

Ankara might be willing to negotiate, but so far it hasn’t had to, Gingeras said, pointing out that Turkey’s activity in the maritime domain has yet to bring any negative consequences thus far. 

Two Turkish gas drilling vessels have operated inside Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) since last May.

Last month, EU foreign ministers condemned Turkey’s activities in Greek and Cypriot territories, a move which Ankara labelled “a by-product of unjust and unlawful claims.”