Erdogan raises rhetoric in Greece standoff in Mediterranean

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Turkish Presidency

Turkey's President Recep Erdogan speaks during a meeting, in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. Erdogan has threatened Greece with military action and described Turkey's activities in the eastern Mediterranean as the " pursuit of (its) rights and justice " and denounced what he said were Greek efforts to " imprison " Turkey to a small region surrounding its coast. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned Greece to enter talks over disputed eastern Mediterranean territorial claims or face the consequences.

“They’re either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences,” he said at a hospital’s opening ceremony in Istanbul.

Ankara is currently facing off against Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. All sides have deployed naval and air forces to assert their competing claims in the region.

“They are going to understand that Turkey has the political, economic and military power to tear up the immoral maps and documents imposed,” Erdogan added, referring to areas marked by Greece and Cyprus as their economic maritime zones.

He stressed that Turkey was “ready for every eventuality and result.”

Meanwhile, Turkish media reported that tanks were being moved towards the Greek border. The Cumhuriyet newspaper said 40 tanks were being transported from the Syrian border to Edirne in northwest Turkey and carried photographs of armored vehicles loaded on trucks.

A military official speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations said the deployment was a regular movement of forces and unconnected to tension with Greece.

The president’s comments come after NATO said military officers from Greece and Turkey had begun technical discussions to reduce the risk of armed conflict or accidents.