Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said a declaration published after a trilateral summit of the leaders of Greece, Egypt and Cyprus was a “manifestation of the hostile policies” of Greece and Cyprus towards Turkey.
Earlier the same day Greece, Cyprus and Egypt jointly condemned Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean following the trilateral summit held in Athens.
In joint statements with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated, “We agree in condemning Turkey’s provocative practices and aggressive rhetoric. Unfortunately, the leadership in Ankara does not seem to understand the signs of the times. Turkey’s aspirations pose a threat to peace in the wider region.”
“The declaration published after the trilateral summit held on October 19, 2021, with the participation of the leaders of Greece, Egypt and the Greek Cypriot Administration, is a new manifestation of the hostile policies of the Greek/Greek Cypriot duo towards Turkey and the TRNC. The participation of Egypt in this declaration on the other hand is an indication that Egypt has not yet grasped the real address that it can cooperate with in the Eastern Mediterranean,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, responding to the declaration.
The eastern Mediterranean was at the center of escalating tensions last year between Turkey and Greece after Ankara sent a research vessel into disputed waters.
The move came after Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian territories agreed to create the East Mediterranean Gas Forum without Turkey in 2019.
Egypt then signed a maritime agreement with Greece that laid claim to some areas covered in a separate pact Turkey struck with Libya around the same time.
“Contrary to the allegations in the declaration, the main source of tension in the region is the Greek/Greek Cypriot duo’s maximalist and unlawful maritime jurisdiction area claims and their total disregard of the Turkish Cypriots. The necessary response was given to the recent attempts of this duo aiming to violate our continental shelf in order to increase tension in the Eastern Mediterranean. We will continue to resolutely protect both our own rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to an abortive coup engineered by the then-military junta in Athens that aimed to unite the island with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC or TRNC).
On October 3, Turkey sent Nautical Geo, a Maltese-flagged survey vessel contracted by the Greek Cypriots, away from what it says is its continental shelf in the Mediterranean. The vessel was conducting survey operations to chart out a potential route for the proposed EastMed pipeline, an undersea gas line that would connect promising offshore fields in Israeli and Cypriot waters back to Crete, then to the Greek mainland.
On September 16, Greece issued a Navtex alert about research operations involving Nautical Geo off Crete. The area described in the alert included waters claimed by both Greece and Turkey. The announcement drew immediate pushback from Ankara, which described the message as an “unlawful, aggressive and provocative” infringement on Turkey’s continental shelf claims.
Turkey’s defense ministry later said the Nautical Geo was “taken away” from the Turkish continental shelf at the weekend after being warned that it was trespassing.
Turkey opposes Cypriot offshore energy development, and it has vigorously criticized the pipeline project, which is being developed without Turkish or Turkish Cypriot participation.