ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vows not to yield to “pirates” and to continue searching for energy in disputed Eastern Mediterranean waters despite EU pressure to stop.
Long-held tensions in the region flared when Turkey last week sent a research vessel accompanied by warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
The European Union urged Turkey to “immediately” halt on Sunday but Erdogan was undeterred.
“We’re 100 percent right on this issue. If we give in to the pirates, we will not be able to look future generations in the face,” he says on a visit to a new solar panel production plant in Ankara.
“We cannot leave to our children a country unable to defend its own rights, lacking self-confidence,” Erdogan says.
“The struggle in the Eastern Mediterranean is not only about rights, but the future… Turkey is determined to seek its rights until the end,” he says, regardless of “colonialist” powers and threats.
Erdogan’s last remark appears to be aimed at NATO ally France, which has repeatedly scolded Turkey and sent reinforcements to the eastern Mediterranean to support Greece.
Despite his defiant remarks, Erdogan again emphasizes the importance of continued dialogue.
“We are awaiting steps from our interlocutors that will decrease tensions, lead the way to dialogue,” he says.
Turkey had agreed, at German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s insistence, to give talks with Greece a chance to resolve the dispute last month, and suspended its decision to explore waters near Kastellorizo.
But Greece then signed an agreement with Egypt to set up an exclusive economic zone that outraged Turkey, which called the deal “null and void”.
Turkey then sent the seismic research ship Oruc Reis on August 10 to carry out activities off the island until August 23.
Turkey is increasingly isolated on the issue, as other countries in the region have forged alliances — including Greece, Cyprus and Israel.