Turkey wants to resolve its dispute with Greece over energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean through dialogue, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Wednesday but added that Ankara would defend its "rights and interests" in the region.
NATO allies Turkey and Greece are at odds over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources in the region and tensions have risen since Ankara launched exploration operations in a disputed area of the Mediterranean Monday.
Greece opposes the operation of Turkey's exploration vessel, Oruç Reis. The vessel was accompanied by Turkish warships when it left port.
"Despite all this, we want to believe that common sense will prevail. Both on the field and at the table, we side with international law, good neighborliness and dialogue," Akar told Reuters. "We want to reach political solutions through peaceful means in line with international laws."
Akar said Turkey would continue to defend its "rights, ties and interests" in coastal waters. "It should be known that our seas are our blue homeland. Every drop is valuable," he said.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the natural resources in the area.
Turkey's plans for Oruç Reis to search for hydrocarbons off the island of Kastellorizo (Megisti-Meis) had infuriated Athens last month.
Then, Ankara agreed to suspend the search off the Greek island "for a while," depending on the outcome of negotiations with Athens and European Union heavyweight, Germany.
But President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last Friday said the Greek side failed to keep promises and said another vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin, had also been sent to the East Mediterranean after Greece signed a maritime delimitation agreement with Egypt.
Turkey says the agreement violates its continental shelf and maritime rights.
On Monday, President Erdoğan said that Ankara was always ready to resolve conflicts fairly through dialogue, as he called on Mediterranean countries to cooperate in finding "an acceptable formula that protects the rights of all."
"There is no way Turkey would consent to any initiative trying to lock the country to its shores, ignoring the vast Turkish territory," he said.
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