Turkish President Erdogan says issues pertaining to continental shelves and rights to energy resources in eastern Mediterranean will only be resolved through a dialogue including all stakeholders.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a meeting with EU Council President Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium on March 9, 2020.
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a meeting with EU Council President Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium on March 9, 2020. (Reuters)

Turkey will not bow to threats in its dispute with Greece and Cyprus over maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said as European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss the issue.

But Erdogan also said Turkey wanted negotiations over the conflicting claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources.

The EU ministers were due to evaluate grounds for sanctions against Turkey. The bloc's leaders will then decide on Thursday whether to make good on their threat, after Turkey sent an exploration vessel into waters claimed by Greece.

"In the eastern Mediterranean issue, our country never sides with tension, but with peace, cooperation, fairness and implementing justice. The path to this goes through negotiations based on mutual respect," Erdogan said, repeating a call for a a conference that involves all actors in the region.

However, Turkey would not allow a "pirate mentality" shown by other countries to restrict it to a narrow strip of coastal water. "We will not bow down to threats and blackmail ... We will not allow imperialist expansionism," he said.

"Turkey will not accept plans and maps that aim to confine us to the coasts off Antalya," Erdogan added.

READ MORE: What is at stake in the eastern Mediterranean?

Forming a common ground

Stressing diplomacy for a permanent solution, Erdogan said, "Diplomacy and negotiation are the shortest and most secure way that will bring us together on a common ground."

Noting that Turkey has kept its calmness despite all the spoiled acts of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration since 2003, the leader vowed that Turkey will preserve its stance which it has adopted so far.

"We are following the developments very closely for both to guarantee our interests and to protect the rights of our brothers in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [TRNC]," he said, adding the EU should not be unfair to Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots asserting union solidarity.

"I believe that by acting with sincerity and common sense, we can find a win-win-based formula that protects everyone's rights," Erdogan concluded.

READ MORE: Will the international community find a fair solution in the east Med?

Call for sanctions

Tensions flared in August when Ankara sent a survey vessel to map out energy drilling prospects in waters also claimed by Greece. Ankara and Athens agreed to resume talks over their contested maritime claims in September, ending a 4-year hiatus.

But Greece has since said it would not begin talks as long as Turkish vessels were in contested waters. The vessel, Oruc Reis, returned to port again last week.

Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration have increased their pressure on other EU members to impose sanctions on Turkey during the upcoming EU leaders summit.

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, and stressed that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

Ankara has sent several drill ships in the past weeks to explore for energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, asserting its own rights in the region, as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkish officials have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favour of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighbourly relations, dialogue, and negotiation.

READ MORE: Despite what Macron thinks, Turks are united over the eastern Mediterranean

Source: TRTWorld and agencies