On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a “red line policy” vis-à-vis Turkey amid the ongoing Turkish-Greek dispute in the Mediterranean, saying Ankara seems to only respect words backed by action. Tensions in the potentially hydrocarbons-rich body of water have escalated amid competing claims over which group of nations owns what.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has issued a response to President Macron’s recent comments about setting up a Syria-style ‘red line’ in the eastern Mediterranean dispute, saying it was up to Ankara, not Paris, to set red lines in areas that belong to it.

“Those who think they drew a red line in the Eastern Mediterranean are challenging our country’s resolute stance,” the ministry indicated in a statement cited by Anadolu Agency.

“If there is a red line in the region, it belongs to Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots based on international law,” the ministry added, suggesting that “the period of determining [France’s] imperialist understanding by drawing lines on maps is over.”

Ankara stressed that it has a powerful enough military to “deter anyone” who challenges its interests “by deploying an armada,” and urged for the conflict to be resolved via negotiations on an equal playing field, not provocations.

The statement comes following remarks by President Macron on Friday in which he said that France had set up a “red line policy” in the Mediterranean to challenge Turkey by deeds in addition to words, and pointed to a similar policy in Syria before the 2018 bombing of the country by French, British and US warplanes.

In addition to joining the European Union in threatening sanctions against Ankara, France recently sent warships to the region to join Greek, Italian and Cypriot navies for drills in the area under dispute.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cautioned Athens and Paris against trying to stop Turkey from its gas exploration activities, warning that unlike Greece and France, Turkey was “determined to pay any price” to defend its interests. “Do the Greek people accept what they might face because of their ambitious and incompetent rulers? Do the French people know the price they will pay for their incompetent rulers?” he asked.

Mediterranean Tensions Simmer

Tensions between Ankara and Athens began escalating in early August, after Turkey’s Oruc Reis seismic surveying ship began searching for gas in an area of the Mediterranean claimed by Greece. The ship started its operations days after Greece and Egypt signed a maritime on August 6 dividing a large area of the body of water between them into exclusive economic zones. That agreement followed a similar treaty between Turkey and the Ankara-backed government in Tripoli, Libya in late 2019, which also made an EEZ claim to large swathes of the eastern Mediterranean, including areas claimed by Greece.

Greece responded to the Oruc Reis’s drilling activity by sending warships to the area, with Turkey doing the same and two warships colliding with one another on August 14. Later, Athens reported a spike in Turkish submarine activity in the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, another area where the two NATO members have a separate, decades-old dispute. Both sides have since reported a spike in maritime and aerial drills.

The European Union has called on Ankara to stop its unilateral drilling, and threatened to impose sanctions if negotiations fail. The substance of these restrictions is expected to be discussed at an EU summit in September. Turkey blasted the EU’s statement, and called on the bloc to “act impartially and be an honest mediator” instead of backing Athens’ “maximalist demands.”

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