ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out Sunday at leaders of France and Greece, calling them “greedy and incompetent” for challenging Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
Erdogan’s charge came as the country celebrated a 1922 victory over Greek troops during Turkey’s war of independence.
Ankara and Athens now dispute major offshore gas fields and France’s support for Greece has drawn it into a serious crisis for the Nato military alliance.
Cyprus is a third, albeit much smaller, nation vying for access to large energy deposits that have been discovered in the region.
Erdogan asked newly-commissioned officers in Ankara: “Do Greeks accept what could happen to them because of their greedy and incompetent leaders?
“Do the French know the price they will pay because of their greedy and incompetent leaders?”
The crisis between putative Nato allies began on Aug 10 when the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis entered Greek waters, after which both sides began to stage naval exercises.
French frigates and fighter jets joined the Greek side, and have shadowed Turkish vessels while Paris warned Erdogan not to overplay his hand.
On Sunday, Paris denounced “escalating behaviour” on the part of Ankara.
Ships from Cyprus, Italy and the US have also taken part in the Greek exercises, while the US and Italy has held drills with Turkish units as well.
Erdogan has challenged Greece and France in particular however, and said Sunday: “When it come times to fight, we will not hesitate to make sacrifices.
“The question is: when they stand against us in the Mediterranean, are they ready to make the same sacrifices?
“To our enemies, we say: Bring it on!”
Turkey on Saturday announced fresh military manoeuvres in northern Cyprus.
Turkish vice president Fuat Oktay also warned Greece not to expand its coastal zone into the Ionian Sea by six nautical miles under international maritime law, saying it would be a “casus belli” that could lead to armed conflict.