Erdogan urges dialogue on east Mediterranean, not 'harassment'

©Al-Araby Al-Jadeed

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday called for "sincere" dialogue to settle the growing row with Greece over Ankara's energy search in the eastern Mediterranean, rejecting any "harassment" by the West over the issue.

"Our priority is to settle disputes with sincere dialogue, based on international law and on an equitable basis," Erdogan said in an address to theUnited Nations General Assembly via video-conference.

"However, I would like to clearly state that we will never tolerate any imposition, harassment, or attack in the opposite direction."

NATO allies Turkey and Greece are embroiled in a row over a maritime gas drilling dispute that has pitted Ankara against other EU member states.

Tensions spiked after Ankara deployed last month a research vessel in the contested waters between the islands of Cyprus and Crete, but it was pulled back to shore recently in order to give a chance to diplomacy.

Erdogan said Turkey "cannot turn a blind eye" to the violation of its rights and repeated Ankara's call for "establishing dialogue and cooperation between coastal countries of the eastern Mediterranean."

"For this purpose, we would like to propose the convening of a regional conference, including Turkish Cypriots, in which the rights and interests of all the countries of the region are considered."

The Turkish leader also criticized without naming them "countries that have declared their intention to open embassies in Jerusalem, in violation of United Nations resolutions and international law", accusing them of making the conflict "more complicated" to resolve.

Erdogan, a pious Muslim, is a strong advocate of Palestinian rights who has frequently criticized Israeli policies in the West Bank.

"Participation of some countries of the region in this game does not mean anything beyond serving Israel's efforts to erode basic international parameters," he said in a veiled reference to the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain who have recently normalized their relations with Israel.

"The Palestinian conflict can only be resolved with the establishment of an independent, sovereign, and contiguous State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," he added.

"Seeking solutions other than this are in vain, one-sided, and unjust."

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