Face-Off Over the Aegean: Turkey Blasts ‘Arrogant’ Macron Amid Eastern Med Crisis Talks

Written by | Saturday, September 12th, 2020

Leaders of seven southern European countries – France, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Spain and Portugal – meeting in Corsica on Thursday (10 September) urged Turkey to end “unilateral and illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean and resume dialogue to ease tensions in the region. Against the backdrop of fears of open conflict as Turkey seeks to expand its energy resources and influence in the region, the leaders reaffirmed their “full support and solidarity with Cyprus and Greece” who they say are facing Turkey’s “confrontational actions.” “We regret that Turkey has not responded to the repeated calls by the European Union to end its unilateral and illegal activities,” the leaders said in their final statement. Fears are growing of a possible conflict that may be sparked by accident, with the two countries locked in a decades-long dispute as they compete for control of oil and gas reserves in the volatile region.
Turkey and Greece have deployed naval and air force units to assert competing claims over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish dril ships and survey vessels continue to search for gas in waters where Cyprus and Greece claim exclusive economic rights. France has also deployed its military ships to carry out patrols in the region in a show of support for Cyprus and Greece. Following their latest meeting in Corsica, the European leaders warned that “in absence of progress in engaging Turkey into a dialogue and unless it ends its unilateral activities, the EU is ready to develop a list of further restrictive measures” at a summit later this month. Turkey needs to “restrain its aggressive rhetoric” and “return to the table for exploratory talks with Greece,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
Meanwhile, Ankara has condemned the French leader over his “arrogant” remarks made with “colonial reflexes” after Emmanuel Macron‘s ealier criticism of President Erdogan over Turkey’s conduct in eastern Mediterranean and Libya. In a statement on Thursday (10 September), the Turkish foreign ministry said Macron endangers EU interests with his “individual and nationalistic stance” when he sought “to give lessons by speaking pedantically with his old colonial reflexes.” Macron urged Europe to adopt a “united and clear voice” on its policy towards Turkey, declaring Ankara is “no longer a partner” in light of its conduct in the Mediterranean and Libya. “We Europeans need to be clear and firm” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his “unacceptable behaviour”, Macron told the media ahead of the Corsica meeting.

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