Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues his provocative, expansionist rhetoric against Greece and Cyprus, this time by being photographed in front of a map depicting half of the Aegean Sea all the way to Crete as belonging to Turkey.
The map of the so-called “Blue Homeland” shows Turkey‘s maritime borders stretching across the Greek islands of the eastern and southeastern Aegean and even into the Cyclades, indicating a 462,000 square kilometer (290,000 sq.m.) area that Ankara claims as its own.
The picture of Erdogan, taken during an event at the National Defense University in Istanbul over the weekend, prompted Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias to respond.
“The borders of states are not defined by any map one likes to draw but on the basis of international law,” Dendias said on Monday during a television interview.
Turkey’s illegal actions, he added, “simply entrench its image as an offender and produce no legal results,” while he urged Ankara to “act seriously” and return to a framework of international law.
Host of provocations
This is the latest in a long line of provocative acts by Ankara. What makes all these provocative statements and acts more disturbing is that they are usually followed by warnings that Turkey is determined to use military force if a nation tries to put any kind of obstacles to its claims.
The “Blue Homeland” plan lays territorial claims in the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean all the way to Egypt and Libya. Also, Turkey maintains army forces on the border with Syria, claiming that they are there to protect territories from Kurdish “terrorists”.
Ankara is taking steps towards that goal. Regarding Greece, Turkey tries to restrict Greek territorial waters to six nautical miles. It is often stated by Erdogan that there should be joint sovereignty in the Aegean waters.
It is no coincidence then that Turkish planes violate Greek airspace on a daily basis.
As for Cyprus, Turkey is already conducting drilling rigs for hydrocarbons inside the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but not inside the designated blocks that are to be explored by International energy companies. At the same time, they promote projects in the northern occupied part of Cyprus that will serve Turkish interests alone with the pretext of securing the interests of Turkish Cypriots.
Case in point, is the plan to revive the ghost town of Varosha, the coastal town in Famagusta that had been deserted since the invasion of the Turkish army on July 20, 1974. The aim is to bring Varosha back to its former glory as a luxury resort town. This would entail that only Turkish Cypriots would benefit.
Ankara’s stance towards the reunification of Cyprus favors that the occupying forces remain on the island as “guarantor power” with rights to intervene. It is clear that with the creation of the self-titled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – a state that no other nation or international organization recognizes – Turkey wishes for Plan B, i.e. the division of Cyprus.
As for talks on Cyprus’ unification as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, Ankara works on a solution that would benefit the Turkish part of the island alone. Whether that is exploring for gas and oil, or attracting wealthy tourists to a future revamped Varosha.
The international community stands as a spectator to Turkey’s bully behavior. Ankara turned a deaf ear to recent warnings by French President Emmanuel Macron to remove Turkish warships from Cyprus’ EEZ, as French energy giant TOTAL has a deal with Cyprus to drill there.
The same effect had the warnings expressed by the U.S. State Department and the European Union. It seems that Turkey is determined to take things to the limit, testing the tolerance of the international community.