Turkey will not tolerate piracy in Aegean, Mediterranean, says Erdoğan

(Updates with remarks from former Egyptian ambassador to Ankara)

Turkey will not tolerate "piracy or banditry’’ in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday.

The country, which has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean region. will not be confined to its shores, state-run Anadolu new agency cited Erdoğan as saying in the northern province of Giresun at an event kick-staring the fishing season in the region.

"As the Turkish nation, we will neither violate rights, nor allow our rights to be violated. Turkey won't allow piracy or banditry in the Mediterranean and Aegean regions," Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan’s remarks arrive amid soaring tensions between Ankara and Athens over territorial waters in the Aegean and Mediterranean.

Turkey disputes Greece’s claim to exclusive rights in the East Mediterranean, where Turkey's Oruç Reis vessel, along with a naval escort, is surveying for hydrocarbon resources off the divided island of Cyprus. Greece says the vessel is over its own continental shelf, where it has exclusive rights on potential undersea gas and oil, and has in turn deployed its own warships to the region.

"We determined to defend the rights of our nation and the Cypriot Turks at sea until the very end,’’ Erdoğan said.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in 1974 in response a Greek Cypriot coup that sought unification with Greece.

The row over hydrocarbon resources between Turkey and Greece has dragged a number of countries into the dispute, including Egypt.

Former Egyptian ambassador to Ankara, Abdurrahman Salahaddin, has said the latest developments in the eastern Mediterranean have further strained normalisation efforts between Egypt and Turkey. 

Following the 2013 coup in Egypt, Egyptian-Turkish relations have deteriorated significantly.

Moreover, it is not just countries in the Eastern Mediterrean, but all nations in the region feel threatened by Turkey, Ocak Medya news site cited Salahaddin as saying.

"Unfortunately, Turkey insists on its own methods,’’ he said, referring to Turkey’s refusal to negotiate to reach a common ground with other countries on the dispute.

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