The EU wishes to give dialogue with Turkey a serious chance to solve the dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean, the bloc’s foreign policy chief has said.
Turkey's defence chief and his British counterpart have spoken over the phone about recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya.
Hulusi Akar and Ben Wallace spoke amid escalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece.
On disputes over maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, Akar on Thursday stressed that Turkey would not usurp anyone's land or sea, but at the same time, would not allow any attack on its territory.
Turkey has long opposed efforts from various countries to exclude it from its maritime jurisdiction and deprive it of exploring energy resources in the region, despite having the longest coastline in the eastern Mediterranean.
Erdogan, Stoltenberg discuss East Mediterranean
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg discussed the latest developments in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the phone call with Stoltenberg, Erdogan stressed that Turkey supports a fair solution in the Eastern Mediterranean with win-win for all countries, Turkey’s Directorate of Communications said in a statement.
NATO must fulfil its responsibility to prevent unilateral steps that ignore the international law and damage regional peace, Erdogan said.
Turkey will always continue to protect its rights and interest everywhere, the president vowed.
Stoltenberg said that NATO was "exploring deconfliction mechanisms to prevent incidents and accidents," in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"Dialogue and de-escalation are important and the situation must be solved in a spirit of NATO solidarity," he added.
EU pushes for dialogue, threatens sanctions
The EU wants to give a “serious chance to dialogue” with Turkey to solve the crisis in the eastern Mediterranean, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said.
“We want to find a path towards a healthier relationship, in the mutual interests of both European Union and Turkey. For this reason, we must walk a fine line between preserving a true space for dialogue and at the same time showing collective strength in the defence of our common interests," said Josep Borrell at a news conference after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Berlin.
Addressing reporters besides German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Borell said the EU is in “solidarity” with Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration and urged Turkey to refrain from unilateral actions.
Borrell said “in the absence of progress in engaging Turkey we could develop a list of further restrictive measures that could be discussed at the European Council on September 24.”
Borell said there is a “frustration” among EU member states about Turkey’s activities and so he asked the relevant working groups in the EU Council to speed up their works.
Separately on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her call for dialogue between Turkey and Greece over the offshore energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
“The discussion regarding the distribution of economic zones can only be carried out together. Germany is making an effort for this,” said Merkel during her traditional annual summer news conference.
'Contrary to international law'
In response, Turkey denounced the EU statement, calling it "out of line."
“The cause of the tension in the eastern Mediterranean is Greece and Greek Cypriot administration, with their maximalist actions and demands contrary to international law," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The unconditional support of the EU to these two who are trying to ignore the legitimate rights and interests of our country and the Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean increases the tension even more,” it added.
“The EU’s criticism on the hydrocarbon activities of our country within the continental shelf and its demands that we stop these activities is out of line,” the statement said.
“As confirmed by the EU Court of Justice, the EU has no authority in this matter. This request is against both the EU's own acquis and international law,” it added.
Turkey also called on EU member states not to support Greece's “maximalist demands” under the pretext of union solidarity.”
“Greece is not an archipelago state. It is against international law and jurisprudence for Greek Islands, especially Meis, to have a continental shelf,” it said.
Controversial maritime deal
Greece ratified an accord on maritime boundaries with Egypt on Thursday, hours after Turkey extended the operation of a seismic survey vessel in the Eastern Mediterranean and said it will hold firing exercises in the region next month.
NATO allies Greece and Turkey are at odds over the rights to potential hydrocarbon resources in the area, based on conflicting claims over the extent of their continental shelves.
Tensions escalated this month after Ankara dispatched the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel in a disputed area following the pact between Athens and Cairo.
Turkey has said the pact infringes its own continental shelf. The agreement also overlaps with maritime zones Turkey agreed with Libya last year, disputed by Greece.
As the dispute widened, France said on Wednesday it was joining military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the deployment of French military aircraft in Cyprus violated treaties regarding the control and administration of the island after independence from Britain in 1960.
Aksoy said that France's stance was dangerously encouraging Greece and Cyprus to further escalate tensions in the region.