Eastern Mediterranean chapter of new EU defense plan illegal, Ankara says

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Turkey on Tuesday lambasted the European Union’s recently adopted defense and security action plan as unstrategic and illegal, saying it would make the bloc part of the problem rather than the solution in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Notably, the chapter of the (strategic compass plan) on the Eastern Mediterranean where our country is mentioned seems to have been dictated by the two EU members who have maximalist claims on maritime borders to the detriment and a persistent denial of rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots,” said a Foreign Ministry statement.

The statement apparently referred to Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, which Turkey says blocked the country’s bid for EU membership for political rather than substantive reasons.

The ministry underlined that the chapter on the Eastern Mediterranean “is totally at odds with international law, practice and even the EU acquis; as such, it is disconnected from reality”.

“As the document does not show the right direction, it cannot function as a ‘compass’ nor be called ‘strategic’,” he said.

Stating that the document will “undoubtedly make the EU part of the problem rather than the solution in the Eastern Mediterranean”, Turkey said it “will not steer the Union towards the right strategies”.

“Given the latest developments, it is regrettable and unvisionary for the EU that the document misses the truth and reality and considers a candidate country and a NATO ally from such a superficial point of view “, he added.

In recent years, Turkey and Greece have been at odds over Athens’ attempt to claim maximalist territory in the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean, limiting Turkish territory to the Gulf of Antalya, although its eastern Mediterranean coastline longer than that of any other country.

NATO allies and neighbors Turkey and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean, airspace, energy, the ethnically divided island of Cyprus and the status of the Aegean islands. A dispute over rights to drill potential oil and gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean led to a tense naval standoff in the summer of 2020. Greece has since embarked on a major military modernization program.

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, pointing out that their excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots. Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding issues in the region through international law, good-neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations. Athens tried to turn a bilateral problem with Ankara into a Turkey-EU problem, according to Turkish officials.

EU foreign ministers on Monday endorsed the bloc’s new defense and security strategy, called the Strategic Compass – two years in the making, saying it sets out “an ambitious action plan to strengthen the policy security and defense of the EU by 2030”.

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