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Erdogan: Turkey will not be confined to its coastline

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Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Monday called for negotiations over energy exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, days ahead of a European Union summit where leaders could decide to impose sanctions on Turkey.

“We believe we can solve the problems of the Eastern Mediterranean by not excluding each other, but by bringing all the actors together around the same table,” Erdogan said in a video message to a university forum on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

However, he said Turkey would “not accept plans and maps that aim to confine us to the shores of Antalya.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in Istanbul, Saturday, December 5, 2020. Photo: Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool.

READ MORE: The European Parliament votes in favor of sanctions against Turkey.

“We are not after exploiting the rights of anyone but try to take a firm stance against pirates that try to take our rights away,” Erdogan said.

At a summit in October, European leaders warned Turkey to withdraw its energy research ships or face punitive measures.

Late last month, the Turkish seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis returned to port, as it had done before October’s EU meeting. However, another research ship, the Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa, remains off Cyprus’ southwest coast.

READ MORE: Turkey withdraws Oruc Reis navy ship, sends Barbaros to Cypriot waters instead.

EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday that Turkey’s behavior has not improved and that the two-day summit on Thursday is looming as a “crucial” meeting for EU-Turkey ties.

“All of them considered that we have not seen a fundamental change of direction,” EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, told reporters after chairing their talks. “In several aspects, the situation has worsened.”

European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, speaks during a media conference after a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, Monday December 7, 2020. Photo: John Thys, Pool via AP.

Tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece escalated over the summer with a military build-up after Turkey sent the Oruc Reis, escorted by navy frigates, into disputed waters. The move prompted Greece to also send its warships, and both countries conducted military exercises to assert their claims.

Turkey says it is standing up for its energy rights, as well as those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots, while Athens and Nicosia call Turkey’s actions a breach of their territorial waters.

READ MORE: ‘No need for discussion,’ says Erdogan as Turkey restarts drilling in eastern Mediterranean.

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