Turkey’s president has called a maritime deal between Greece and Egypt “worthless”, saying Turkey will resume oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

An aerial photo shows Turkish drill ship Fatih continue offshore drilling operations next to a Turkish battleship off the west coast of Cyprus.
An aerial photo shows Turkish drill ship Fatih continue offshore drilling operations next to a Turkish battleship off the west coast of Cyprus. (TURKISH NATIONAL DEFENCE MINISTRY / HANDOUT / AA)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dubbed the maritime deal announced between Cairo and Athens as "worthless”, with no effect on the issue of exclusive economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean.

President Erdogan, speaking after Friday prayers in the recently reconverted Hagia Sophia mosque, said the deal was a response to Turkey’s maritime agreement with Libya’s internationally recognised Tripoli-based government last year, which he vowed to continue implementing.

"There's no need to talk with those who have no rights, especially in maritime jurisdictions," Erdogan added.

Erdogan also said Turkey had paused research in disputed waters with Greece after a request from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I told (Merkel) we’ll pause drilling for three to four weeks if you trust Greece and the others … but I don’t trust them and you will see,” Erdogan said.

But that appears to have ended with the deal between Greece and Egypt.

“We have immediately resumed exploration activities,” Erdogan said and appointed Turkish research vessel Barbaros Hayreddin, which is sailing off the western coast of Cyprus.

READ MORE: Turkey’s ‘Blue Homeland’: striking a balance in the Eastern Mediterranean

Egypt on Thursday announced that it signed a bilateral agreement with Greece on the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions between the two countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

READ MORE: Turkey declares Egypt-Greece maritime deal 'null and void'

The Turkish foreign ministry slammed the "so-called agreement" in a statement, asserting that Greece and Egypt share no mutual sea border and that the deal is "null and void" for Ankara.

It added that the demarcated area in the agreement was located on Turkey's continental shelf, as Ankara has reported to the UN.

Turkey has long opposed the efforts of various countries to exclude it from its rightful maritime jurisdiction, despite it having the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean.

READ MORE: The Eastern Mediterranean dispute: is there light at the end of the tunnel?

The efforts have especially tried to deprive Turkey of its rights to explore for energy resources in the region, which Turkey has encouraged the fair sharing of by regional countries.

Last November, Turkey and Libya signed a landmark deal laying out maritime boundaries between the two countries.

READ MORE: Greek actions stifle a resolution in the Eastern Mediterranean

Turkey's continental shelf

It also noted that Egypt had already abandoned 11,500 square kilometres of its continental shelf with a previous agreement it signed with the Greek Cypriot administration in 2003.

Egypt is again losing its maritime jurisdiction with the latest so-called treaty, which seeks to usurp Libya's rights as well, it said.

Turkey will not allow any activity in these areas and will continue to resolutely defend its legitimate rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, added the statement.

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

Libya denounces deal

Libya also condemned the deal between Greece and Egypt.

“Libya will not allow violations of its maritime rights,” foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed Al Qablawi said on Twitter.

Al Qablawi reiterated Libya’s commitment to a memorandum of understanding concerning the delimitation of maritime jurisdiction signed with Turkey.

Libya also urged the states bordering the Mediterranean to act in accord with the principles of international law.

Beirut explosion

Also addressing Tuesday’s huge blast in the Lebanese capital Beirut, Erdogan said Turkey is following Lebanon’s investigation of the explosion.

“This really was a huge disaster,” Erdogan said.

The death toll in the blast at the Port of Beirut stands at 154, with around 5,000 people injured, and massive material damage.

“We will stand by Beirut, Lebanon, and the Lebanese people with everything we can,” he added.

The Lebanese government has announced the formation of a commission to investigation the deadly blast.

The blast rocked Lebanon even as it also faces economic woes, including a dramatic drop in the value of the Lebanese pound against the US dollar.

Fight against coronavirus

Turning to the coronavirus pandemic, Erdogan stressed how Turkey has extended a helping hand to nearly 150 countries to fight the virus.

“We are currently sending everything from masks to overalls and medicines to nearly 150 countries amid the coronavirus pandemic,” Erdogan said.

Turkey on Thursday confirmed 220,546 recoveries, while the total number of cases in the country stands at 237,265.

The country's death toll from the disease rose to 5,798.

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed over 715,500 lives in 188 countries and regions since it originated in China last December. The US, Brazil, India, and Russia are currently the worst-hit countries in the world.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies