Greece will not imprison Turkey via islands, Erdoğan vows as East Med tensions rise – live blog

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would not accept Greece’s attempts to “imprison” Turkey on its shores as tensions continue to rise over disputed maritime territory in the eastern Mediterranean, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Anadolu cited Erdoğan as saying on Tuesday that, as Turkey was a vast country, “of course, we will not consent to an attempt to imprison us on our shores over several square kilometres of islands”.

“No country in the world would bow to such an absurd and unfounded demand. Let's come together as all the countries in the Mediterranean and find a formula that is acceptable to everyone and protects everyone's rights,” he added.

The latest dispute over hydrocarbon exploration rights in the region revolves around the small Greek island of Kastellorizo, 2 km from Turkey’s southern coastline.

Greece placed its armed forces on high alert and deployed naval and air force units on Monday after Turkey's seismic exploration ship Oruç Reis arrived in the area accompanied by Turkish naval ships, in a move which Athens described as a threat to peace and stability in the region.

The latest developments in the eastern Mediterranean are “extremely worrying” and must be solved through dialogue, European Commission foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said on Tuesday.

Turkey's move prompted Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to convene the government’s national security council on Monday, and Athens issued a maritime safety message, known as Navtex, which called Ankara's actions “unauthorised and illegal activity in an area that overlaps the Greek continental shelf”.

Çağatay Erciyes, a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official in charge of maritime and aviation boundary affairs, said Turkey’s position on eastern Mediterranean maritime jurisdiction is supported by international courts and state practice.

Attached images on Erciyes' Twitter account on Monday stated that claims based on Greece’s 10-km2 island of Kastellorizo, which is 570 kilometres from the Greek mainland, is “against the principle of equity, international law and jurisprudence.”

The two countries reached the brink of an armed confrontation at the end of July after Ankara’s decision to send the Oruç Reis escorted by warships to Kastellorizo to conduct oil and gas exploration. Ankara later said it would pause exploration and drilling for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean for a month to reduce tensions with Greece and the European Union.

On Friday, however, Erdoğan announced his country would resume exploration in territory disputed with Athens, a day after Greece and Egypt signed a maritime boundary deal that demarcates an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights.

Erdoğan claimed the Greek-Egyptian deal was a response to a maritime agreement Turkey made with Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in November.

(All times Turkish time - GMT+3)

21:00 - Greek FM to visit Israel on Thursday 

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is set to visit Israel Thursday amid tensions with Ankara over control of Mediterranean gas fields, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

In January, Greece, Israel and Cyprus signed the East-Med gas deal  to build an undersea natural gas pipeline from Israel to Europe.

Earlier on Wednesday, Lior Haiat, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, expressed full support for Athens in the ongoing conflict with Ankara.

16: 55 - Turkey calls for dialogue in settling EastMed dispute with Greece

Turkey wishes to resolve the dispute in the eastern Mediterranean with Greece through dialogue, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said.

“Despite all this, we want to believe that common sense will prevail. Both on the field and at the table, we side with international law, good neighbourliness and dialogue,” Akar told Reuters. “We want to reach political solutions through peaceful means in line with international laws.”

Akar also said Turkey would continue to defend its “rights, ties and interests” in coastal waters, noting, “It should be known that our seas are our blue homeland. Every drop is valuable.”

16:50 - Israel expresses full support for Greece in EastMed conflict

Israel has expressed "full support" for Greece in the country’s escalating tension with neighbouring Turkey over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

"Israel follows closely as tension arises in the Eastern Mediterranean," Lior Haiat, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said on Twitter.

"Israel expresses its full support and solidarity with Greece in its maritime zones and its right to delimit its EEZ,’’ he added.

13:50 - Erdoğan to hold call with Merkel this week

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to hold a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week, Kathimerini said.

Erdoğan wants to raise his proposal for a commonly accepted “formula” among eastern Mediterranean states.

On Tuesday he reportedly spoke of a “formula that is acceptable to everyone and protects everyone’s rights”.

He said that Turkey paused seismic research activities in the region last month at the request of Merkel “as a gesture of good will”.

12:20 - EU calls extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council meeting

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council meeting for Friday afternoon, Kathimerini said.

“We will discuss urgent issues and address the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, the Belarus Presidential elections, as well as developments in Lebanon,” he said in a tweet.

Greece’s Foreign Minister will participate in Friday’s meeting via a video link from Vienna, according to Kathimerini.

11:25 - Greek Foreign Minister to meet to meet U.S. Secretary of State in Vienna on Friday

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Vienna on Friday, Kathimerini said.

No more details were immediately available about the planned meeting which will take place amid rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

21:50 - EU expresses solidarity with Greece and Cyprus

The European Union has expressed solidarity with Greece and Cyprus over the latest developments in the eastern Mediterranean, the Greek City Times reported.

“The EU stands with full solidarity on the side of Greece and Cyprus and there is no doubt about that,” it quoted Peter Stano, the EU’s foreign affairs spokesperson, as saying during a briefing with journalists.

“Developments have shown that more needs to be done to reduce the tension and reverse the very negative and unfortunate escalating climate,” Stano said.

21:45 - Turkey's National Defence Ministry vows to stand by Blue Homeland doctrine

Turkey's National Defence Ministry said it remained determined to seek Turkey's rights and interests, vowing to remain true to the Blue Homeland doctrine.

"We are determined and capable from now on too to protect all the rights, concerns and interests in our Blue Homeland. Our oath is to our Blue Homeland," the Ministry said.

Turkey’s Blue Homeland (Mavi Vatan) doctrine lays claim to expansive territorial waters in the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black seas.

#SONDAKİKA MSB: Mavi Vatanımızdaki her türlü hak, alaka ve menfaatimizi bundan sonra da korumakta kararlıyız, buna muktediriz. Misakımız Mavi Vatanımızdır.

— 24 TV (@yirmidorttv) August 11, 2020