ANKARA 

Trying to test Turkey’s power would be unwise, said the nation’s defense minister on Thursday, reiterating that it is both determined and able to protect its own rights and interests. 

Everyone should know that the Turkish Republic has truly become a player on the international stage, Hulusi Akar told Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk. 

Akar spoke on a range of issues, including Turkey’s rising international profile and its stance on tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Navtex maritime alert Turkey issued on Sunday was to ensure the safety of its naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean during a training off the coast of Iskenderun, southern Turkey, said Akar.

Greece had criticized the alert and the next day issued a competing Navtex for maritime drills, in the process raising tension in the region.

On disputes over maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean, Akar stressed that Turkey has no designs on anyone’s land or sea, but the country will not allow any attack on its territory from its neighbors’ lands or seas. 

On Turkey’s borders in the Eastern Mediterranean, he explained: “We said what would happen if you violated them. But we always stress that we favor dialogue.”

Against Greece’s “maximalist” maritime claims, trying to confine Turkey to shore based on small Greek islands just off the Turkish coast, Turkey has sought dialogue to reach fair sharing through a win-win approach.

Turkey would welcome Greek officials seeking dialogue

“Turkey favors dialogue [on maritime issues], we want peace, but we also want our rights,” said Akar, stressing Turkey’s desire for dialogue.

Turkey would be happy to welcome its Greek counterparts if they decide to sit down and talk, he added. 

“Turkey’s power should not be tested,” said Akar, reiterating that Turkey is determined and able to protect its own rights and interests. 

Dialogue over the Eastern Mediterranean should be the first option, otherwise undesirable situations could follow, he cautioned. 

Turkey has consistently opposed Greek efforts to declare a huge exclusive economic zone, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean.

Ankara has also said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) – which has issued Turkish state oil company Turkish Petroleum a license – and the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus. 

French claim ship was harassed 

“France’s claims that Turkey harassed a French ship were proven false. France should apologize to the Turkish Republic,” Akar said, referring to an incident this June near Libya.  

Turkey said a NATO investigation of the incident proved its ships did nothing wrong.

Ankara has opposed French interference in the Mediterranean, including its support for Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar and favoring Greece’s expansive maritime claims.

Turkey expects France to act in line with reason and law in the region, he added. 

Libya 

Turning to Turkey’s activities in Libya, Akar said: “Turkey is pursuing humanitarian and other activities in line with international law, and will continue doing so.”

Last November, Turkey and Libya signed pacts on security cooperation and maritime boundaries.

Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya’s new government was founded in 2015 under a political deal led by the UN.

Libya’s internationally recognized government has been under attack by warlord Haftar’s forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.

With Turkish support, Libya’s government has recently turned the tide against the forces of Haftar, while stressing that there is no military solution for Libya.

Turkey’s fight with terrorism 

“Turkey has neutralized 17,200 terrorists since July 2015,” said Akar.

Turkey’s only target is the terrorists, he added.

Turkey has launched several counter-terrorist military operations in recent years, especially against the YPG/PKK, which has tried to use northern Iraq and northern Syria as cross-border terrorist bases against Turkey.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian branch.

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