Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is daring Greece to impede Ankara's exploration efforts in the East Mediterranean, saying its neighbour is "unworthy of the Byzantine legacy".
The Turkish administration will not make any concessions as he criticised Greece for its campaign to discourage Turkey from conducting exploration off the divided island of Cyprus and elsewhere in the Mediterranean.
'We will take whatever we are entitled to'
"We will take whatever we are entitled to in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black seas, we will not make any concessions," Erdogan said on Wednesday at a commemoration ceremony of the Seljuks’ Manzikert victory over the Byzantine in 1071.
Turkey did not covet other country’s territory but would be steadfast in protecting its legitimate interests, he said.
“We are determined to do whatever is politically, economically and militarily necessary to ensure this,” the president said, warning that other countries should not try and test Turkey's patience and courage.
Athens a 'fake bully'
"If it [Greece] wants to pay a price, let them come and face us. If they do ntt have the courage for it, they should stand out of our way," Erdogan said, as he referred to Greece as being "unworthy of the Byzantine legacy".
Greece refused to take lessons from history and "acts like a fake bully in the Mediterranean", Erdogan said, warning Athens to avoid taking steps that could lead to its "ruin".
“All of our success in politics, the economy and military fields help us to look to our future with more confidence, as the natural gas reserve we discovered in the Black Sea has boosted our morale after a long time,” Erdogan said.
His remarks came after Erdogan unveiled a 320 billion cubic metre gas discovery at the Tuna-1 well in the undisputed waters of the Black Sea last week.
German mediation efforts
Erdogan’s bombastic remarks came amid mediation efforts by Germany, whose foreign minister conducted shuttle diplomacy between Athens and Ankara on Tuesday in a bid to deescalate the situation as Turkey and Greece engaged in naval exercises.
The two are locked in a bitter dispute over maritime boundaries and offshore energy rights. They have sent warships to shadow each other in the East Mediterranean and held military exercises within a broad area between Crete and Cyprus where Turkey is conducting seismic work.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged the two NATO allies to defuse the tensions, warning that “any spark, however small, could lead to a disaster".
After talks with Maas, the foreign ministers of both Greece and Turkey signaled readiness for dialogue but blamed each other for the standoff.
Turkish seismic vessel Oruc Reis is conducting exploration, escorted by Turkish warships. Greece, which says the vessel is operating in an area where it has exclusive rights, has sent warships to shadow the Turkish flotilla.
Turkey is stepping up the ante by planning to send a second drilling vessel to the disputed waters.