Turkey defiant against threats of sanctions and fear of conflict over Mediterranean Sea mission

‘'We will continue to defend our rights, using all the means at our disposal,’ Turkey’s president said

This handout photograph released by the Turkish Defence Ministry on August 12, 2020, shows Turkish seismic research vessel 'Oruc Reis' heading in the west of Antalya on the Mediterranean Sea.  Greek Prime Minister on August 12, 2020 urged Turkey to show "logic" in a naval showdown in the Eastern Mediterranean over energy exploration which he warned could lead to a military accident. Tensions were stoked on August 10 when Ankara dispatched the research ship Oruc Reis accompanied by Turkish naval vessels off the Greek island of Kastellorizo in the eastern Mediterranean.  - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / TURKISH DEFENCE MINISTRY" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
 / AFP / TURKISH DEFENCE MINISTRY / Handout / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / TURKISH DEFENCE MINISTRY" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Threats and sanctions from the European Union will not deter Turkey, the country’s president said after sending a scientific boat on a voyage into disputed waters.

The Oruc Reis was accompanied by a small navy fleet into the eastern Mediterranean Sea region on Monday, prompting Greece to dispatch its own military assets to observe.

By Friday, two ships had been involved in what was being called a minor collision, the EU had backed Greece and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had met the Greek foreign minister and called for peace.

On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the ship would continue its voyage until August 23.

Map shows competing maritime borders according to agreements made by Athens and Cairo, Tripoli and Ankara

“We will never bow to banditry on our continental shelf. We will not back down against the language of sanctions and threats,” Mr Erdogan said.

“On this question, our country is entirely in the right and we will continue to defend our rights, using all the means at our disposal.”

Greece and Turkey are in a years-long dispute over rights to the resource-rich waters of the eastern Mediterranean, and the search for oil and gas.

At the heart of the disagreement are overlapping claims to parts of the eastern Mediterranean Sea that border the many Greek islands in the region.

Turkey’s claims to the waters, which it says are on its continental shelf, have repeatedly been dismissed as illegal by Greece and its allies.

The Oruc Reis, which is between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, will continue work until August 23, Mr Erdogan said.

The EU’s 27 foreign ministers rallied behind Greece and Cyprus over its territorial dispute with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, and issued a warning that Turkish naval mobilisations were exacerbating an already grave situation.

A statement by the ministers hinted at the possibility of sanctions in the future if Turkey failed to de-escalate, with a broader discussion on relations with Ankara expected to take place later this month.

An EU statement raised the wider ramifications of the clash.

“Ministers stressed that the serious deterioration in the relationship with Turkey is having far-reaching strategic consequences for the entire EU, well beyond the eastern Mediterranean,” it said.

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