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Iran Press TV

Erdogan warns Greece to enter Mediterranean talks or face 'painful' consequences

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 06 September 2020 5:49 AM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Greece to enter talks over disputed territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean or face "painful" consequences.

"They're either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences," Erdogan said Saturday at a hospital's opening ceremony in Istanbul.

He also warned that Ankara was prepared to defend Turkey's territorial rights at any cost.

"As Turkey and the Turkish people, we are ready for every possibility and every consequence."

Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have been embroiled in a long-running territorial dispute in the eastern Mediterranean over the region's resources.

Turkey has been pursuing a gas exploration effort in the disputed waters, dispatching a research vessel escorted by its Navy warships. There have been encounters with rival Greek vessels.

The energy dispute builds upon a much longer history of animosity between Turkey and Greece, dating back to 1974 when Turkish forces invaded Cyprus in response to a Greek-backed military coup.

Cyprus has also accused Turkey of breaching its sovereignty by drilling in the waters. All sides have deployed naval and air forces to assert their competing claims.

Erdogan made it clear that Ankara would not compromise, saying, "Turkey is ready for any kind of sharing (of energy resources) as long as it is fair."

His warning came as Turkey gears up for five days of military exercises in the Turkish Cypriot-controlled northern region recognized by Ankara as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Meanwhile, NATO said this week that Greek and Turkish leaders had agreed to take part in technical talks to avoid accidents between their navies.

However, Greece later said Athens had not agreed to the talks, leading to accusations from Turkey that the EU country was "rejecting dialog and lying" in regard to the dispute.

Greece has already launched naval exercises with several EU countries, as well as the United Arab Emirates, in the disputed waters.

War 'a matter of time'

The energy dispute has raised the specter of a possible military confrontation.

Turkish veteran politician Devlet Bahceli, who is the leader of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said that war with Greece in the Mediterranean Sea was "just a matter of time," according to media reports.

"It is inconceivable to turn our backs on our historical interests in the Mediterranean and the Aegean," Bahçeli noted.

"From now on, the attitude and behavior of Greece will be what will determine the increasing tensions that will cause bleeding or an abominable confrontation," he warned.

The energy rivalry has dimmed the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union, which has called for dialog but has sided with member Greece.

France has been particularly assertive against Turkey, building up military presence in the region and conducting joint drills with Greece.

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