ANKARA – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used militaristic rhetoric on Tuesday to warn companies prospecting for gas in Mediterranean waters off Cyprus and around Aegean islets not to step out of line and to respect Turkey’s rights in the region.
In a speech given to lawmakers from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters, Erdogan said that if Turkey’s authority in the region was jeopardized, then it reserved the right to launch a military intervention just as it had done in the northern Syrian region of Afrin, which was under the control of Kurdish militias deemed a security threat by Ankara.
“Opportunistic attempts concerning gas exploration off Cyprus and concerning Aegean islets are not escaping our attention. We are warning those who step out of line with miscalculations,” the hard-line leader Erdogan said in his Ankara speech.
“Our rights in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus are for us the same as in Afrin,” he added.
Ankara’s disapproval of oil and gas exploration by international companies near its territories led to a stand-off Sunday when a Turkish naval vessel blocked a ship contracted by Italian oil company Eli from heading to a drilling site in waters off the coast of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot territories.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, occupied by the Turkish army in 1974 in response to an attempted Greek coup d’état that sought to annex the island, is recognized only by Turkey and retains a heavy presence of Turkish soldiers.