ANKARA – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that any attack against a Turkish ship exploring oil and gas in disputed Mediterranean waters would pay a “high price” and claim that Turkey acted on that warning.
Tensions in the eastern Mediterranean rose sharply this week after Turkey dispatched a survey ship to the area, escorted by warships, in a move that Greece considered illegal.
“We were told that if you attack our Oruc Reis, you will pay a very high price and they got their first answer today,”; Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara without giving. know details.
The Oruc Reis sailed on Monday with military escort to survey the waters between Crete and Cyprus.
In response, President Emmanuel Macron said France would increase its military presence in the region and urged Ankara to stop exploration work. French and Greek forces held military training drills off the island of Crete on Thursday.
Foreign ministers of the European Union, who have imposed sanctions on two Turkish energy executives over Turkish operations in the eastern Mediterranean, will discuss the situation on Friday.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said Minister Nikos Dendias will briefly introduce to his EU counterparts “the real situation in recent days regarding activities in the region” at the emergency meeting.
Erdogan spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Council President Charles Michel on Thursday. He “reiterated his commitment to protect Turkish interests against attempts to disregard them,” Erdogan’s office said on the call with Michel.
Both Turkey and Greece this week said they were willing to settle disputes over their overlapping maritime claims, but pledged to protect their interests and blame the other side for instability.
“If we act with common sense and reason, we can find a mutually beneficial solution that will satisfy everyone’s interests,” Erdogan said earlier on Thursday. “We’re not pursuing any unnecessary adventures or looking for stress.”
When referring to France, Mr. Erdogan also said that Greece is being “pushed by” a country that does not even have a coast in the east of the Mediterranean Sea “into” wrong steps “in the region.