UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER
By Sarp Ozer and Fahri Aksut
ANKARA (AA) – French President Emmanuel Macron is adding fuel to the fire in the Eastern Mediterranean and making it harder to solve problems, said the Turkish defense minister on Friday.
In an exclusive interview with Britain's Channel 4 News, Hulusi Akar said the French president is trying to take on the role of Napoleon who died two centuries ago but Macron is not strong enough for this.
Akar said Macron is trying to have some roles in the Eastern Mediterranean to obscure his problems in France.
"He is trying to play a role in the Eastern Mediterranean by coming from thousands of kilometres away," which is not right, Akar said.
He stressed that Turkey defends its rights and interests, reminding that it has approximately 2,000 kilometers (around 1,242 miles) of coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On NATO's meditation efforts, Akar said while Greece is reluctant and slowing down the solution of the Eastern Mediterranean issue with some preconditions, Turkey supports holding these meetings.
Drawing attention to Greece's activities in the Aegean Sea, Akar said Greece has armed some islands, especially Meis, or Kastellorizo, in the Aegean and region in violation of international law.
"This is a violation of international law and agreements between countries. This is a threat to Turkey. This has a negative impact on good neighborly relations," he said.
"Our Greek neighbors selfishly speak about their rights. They have a tendency to ignore our rights in every condition. This is not acceptable," Akar said.
Turkey only expects respect to its rights from all parties, he noted.
In regard to the EU attitude to the issue, he said the EU does not contribute to the solution and has become a part of the deadlock.
He said the EU does not have any authority to set or change rules or draw borders in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On the sanction calls of EU members to Turkey, he said it is a "threatening language" that they frequently speak of sanctions in various ways.
“This attitude of the EU only raises the tension,” Akar added.
The EU should understand that everyone should abide by all rules of international law, Akar stressed, adding that the bloc, especially Macron, is extremely partisan and biased on the issue.
– Exploration activities
On the hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Akar said Turkey is doing technical and scientific works in the region as it has done before within its continental shelf.
"We are doing this in the framework of our own rights. There is no provocation of any kind here," he highlighted.
Akar also said Turkey's work in the region consists of planned, scheduled, open, and transparent use of existing rights.
Tensions have recently escalated over the issue of energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greece has disputed Turkey's energy exploration in the region, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.
Turkey — the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean — has sent out drill ships, with military escort, to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have rights in the region.
To reduce tensions, Turkey has called for dialogue to ensure the fair sharing of the region’s resources.
Meanwhile, Turkish and Greek military delegations have held technical meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels to discuss ways to reduce the risk of an incident amid rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.