'Turkey will never accept Greece extending territorial waters'

Defence Minister says Greece's plan for a 12-nautical-mile increase in the Aegean would be a cause for war

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar speaks during a visit with Turkish Armed Forces command on the Greek border in Edirne on August 29. AFP / Turkish Defence Ministry
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Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Thursday repeated that Ankara would never accept Greece extending its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea, dismissing any effort by Athens as “empty dreams.”

At a symposium in Istanbul addressing troubled relations with Greece, Mr Akar said Ankara was determined to continue its search for energy in the Eastern Mediterranean, in areas where it believes it and Turkish Cypriots have rights.

Greece and Turkey, both Nato members, have long been at odds over disputes including boundaries in the Aegean and energy exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Tension flared last year over drilling rights in areas of the Mediterranean that Greece and Cyprus claim as their exclusive economic zones.

Greece also maintains its right to extend its territorial waters from six to 12 nautical miles around its Aegean islands.

Turkey says it would consider the move, which would block its access to the Aegean, a cause for war.

In January, the Greek Parliament voted to extend its waters along its western coastline.

“While we do not accept this claim which disregards the rules of international law, the principles of reason and logic, Greece seeks to expands its airspace further with the dream of extending its territorial waters to 12 miles,” Mr Akar said.

“It should be seen and known that these are empty dreams.

"We will continue our activities in areas where [Turkish Cypriots] have given us licence and where we have rights."

Cyprus has been divided between its Greek and Turkish communities since 1974. The internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government accuses Turkey of breaching its economic zone by drilling off the island.

Meanwhile, in a recorded video address to the symposium, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country had been left on its own to deal with millions of Syrian refugees and accused Greece of “wasting a historic opportunity” to co-operate with Ankara on the issue.

“No step has been taken to ensure that refugees can live in security and peace in their own lands,” Mr Erdogan said.

“Turkey was left alone in its extraordinary struggle to prevent irregular migration."

Turkey hosts more than 3.6 million Syrians who have fled their country's civil war.

In 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a deal for Turkey to stop hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees heading towards Europe, in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and substantial financial support.

Mr Erdogan has frequently accused the EU of not keeping its side of the bargain, while the deal led to thousands of asylum-seekers languishing in squalid refugee camps on the eastern Greek islands.

Updated: September 09, 2021, 9:32 PM