Turkey tells EU to stop ‘blindly’ backing Greece in standoff

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey called on European Union countries Friday to abandon a policy of “blindly” taking the side of EU members Greece and Cyprus in a tense standoff over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy also urged Greece to reduce the ongoing tensions by backing a NATO initiative that aims to reduce the risk of an armed conflict at sea and withdrawing Greek warships that are monitoring a Turkish research ship — which itself is accompanied by Turkish warships.

NATO allies Greece and Turkey have deployed naval and air force units to assert competing claims over energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish survey vessels and drill ships continue to prospect for gas in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights.

Turkey accuses Greece of trying to grab an unfair share of maritime resources and Cyprus of disregarding the rights of Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically-divided island.

Greece and Turkey have carried rival naval exercises amid their standoff. On Friday, Turkey issued a new Navtex, or international maritime safety message, for Sept. 12-Sept. 14 live-fire exercises between its southern coast.

Aksoy’s statements were directed at the leaders of seven southern European countries, who at a meeting Thursday urged Turkey to end its “unilateral and illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean and to resume dialogue to ease tensions.

In their final statement, the leaders of France, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Spain and Portugal reaffirmed their “full support and solidarity with Cyprus and Greece” as they face Turkey’s “confrontational actions.”

Meeting in Corsica, France, the leaders also warned that the EU was ready to develop a list of further sanctions unless Turkey ends its unilateral activities and engages in dialogue.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman called their declaration “biased, detached from reality and lacking a legal basis.”

“The EU and the other countries that signed the declaration should abandon their one-sided and biased attitudes that they blindly pursue under the guise of solidarity,” Aksoy said. “Solidarity can occur with the side which is right. There can be no solidarity with the wrongful side.”

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