Commenting on the US lifting a 33-year-old arms embargo on Greek-administered Cyprus, Defence Minister Akar says the decision will only serve to create an impasse, not peace.

Turkish National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar holds a meeting on developments in eastern Mediterranean via videoconference in Ankara, Turkey on August 11, 2020.
Turkish National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar holds a meeting on developments in eastern Mediterranean via videoconference in Ankara, Turkey on August 11, 2020. (Turkish Ministry of Defence / AA)

Turkey has said it is pursuing its rights and interests in the eastern Mediterranean, not an escalation in regional tensions.

“We are not seeking tension or bullying,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday. 

"We clearly and explicitly chase our rights and interests with belief, knowledge, logic, science, and law. Nobody can prevent this."

Akar was speaking during a visit to the air operations centre in Eskisehir province.

Turkey announced on Wednesday that Russia will hold live-fire naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, amid escalating tensions between Turkey and Greece over rights to search for energy resources in the region.

The navigational notice issued late on Wednesday said the Russian exercises will take place September 8-22 and September 17-25 in areas of the Mediterranean where Turkish seismic research vessels are operating.

The recent US decision to partially lift an arms embargo on Greek-administered Cyprus will cause “conflict and deadlock,” Akar said, adding it will not bring “peace and a solution.” 

Cyprus arms embargo

On Tuesday, the US announced it was partially lifting a 33-year-old arms embargo against Greek Cyprus.

Turkey has reacted angrily to the US move, saying it went against the “spirit of alliance” between Washington and Ankara.

It also warned that it would harm efforts to reunify Cyprus, which is split between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities. 

Turkish officials have also vowed to take steps to guarantee the security of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The US embargo, imposed in 1987, was designed to prevent an arms race that would hinder UN-facilitated reunification efforts for Cyprus. It was directed against the southern, Greek-administered Cypriot part of the island.

Tensions over exploration rights

The US decision and Russian drills come at a time of increased friction between Turkey on the one side and Greece on the other over offshore energy exploration rights. 

Warships from Greece and Turkey have been shadowing each other in recent weeks as Turkish survey vessels and drill ships continue to prospect for hydrocarbons in contested waters.

READ MORE: Turkey issues Navtex in eastern Mediterranean for Russia drill

Greece's controversial move to sign a maritime delimitation agreement with Egypt, which Turkey says violates its continental shelf and maritime rights, has sparked further tensions between the two neighbours with Ankara accusing Athens of pursuing maximalist policies in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece has attempted to restrict Turkey’s maritime territory, trying to box it in to its shores based on small Greek islands near the Turkish coast.

Turkey has argued the sides should instead sit down for dialogue to reach a win-win solution based on fair sharing.

READ MORE: Turkish naval strength in Eastern Mediterranean shifts balance of power

Source: TRTWorld and agencies