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Erdogan threatens Greece over disputed territorial claims

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Erdogan on Saturday warned Greece to enter talks over disputed eastern Mediterranean territorial claims or face the consequences.
Erdogan on Saturday warned Greece to enter talks over disputed eastern Mediterranean territorial claims or face the consequences.   -   Copyright  AP/Turkish Presidency
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened Greece with “painful experiences” if the country doesn’t enter talks with Turkey over disputed territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean.

The two countries have been in a long-running dispute over oil and gas exploration rights in the area, with Turkey also butting up against Cyprus over the same issues.

All sides have deployed naval and air forces to assert their claims in the region.

“They’re either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences,” Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

“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.”

A Turkish newspaper meanwhile has 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.

The two NATO allies have been locked for weeks in a tense standoff.

Turkey has been conducting exploration of the seabed for energy reserves in an area Greece claims as its own continental shelf.

Last Saturday, August 28, tensions escalated further after Turkey launched new military drills in the area.

Erdogan said Turkey had repeatedly expressed its willingness to come to a just agreement.

“Our word is sincere,” he said. “The problem is those before us disregard our rights and try to situate themselves above us.”

Turkey faces a wide range of opponents in the eastern Mediterranean. France, Italy and the United Arab Emirates have all sent forces to join war games with either Greece or Cyprus in recent weeks.

Egypt has signed an energy exploration deal with Athens for the Mediterranean.

The European Union, which counts Greece and Cyprus as members, has also threatened possible sanctions against Ankara over its “illegal” actions.

The recent crisis is the most serious in Turkish-Greek relations in decades. The neighbours have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, including once over maritime resources in the Aegean.