Ankara, Turkey – Turkey “will never take a step back” from its goals in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Qatar’s The Peninsula newspaper in an interview published on Thursday, responding to a question about the so-called “Blue Homeland” doctrine.

“The issue of the Aegean and the Mediterranean is one that Turkey will never take a step back from. We have voiced loudly on all platforms that we will not accept any solution that disregards Turkey and the TRNC and that confines us to the shores, and we will continue to do so. We will resolutely continue to protect and defend our rights and interests at all times and under all circumstances,” Erdogan said, referring to the occupied north of Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.

“States disturbed by the presence of Turkey, in particular Greece, have adopted a stance that causes tension by taking unilateral actions. Behind the stance of France, known for its colonialism, which provoked Greece, the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, and now Armenia, is the fact that Turkey has played an active role in the region,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s comments come as Greece and Turkey prepare to engage in exploratory talks and amid efforts by NATO to create a “deconfliction” mechanism to prevent a military crisis between the two neighbors. They also come as Turkey plans to open the beach of Varosha, the fenced-off southern quarter of the city of Famagusta ahead of elections in the Turkish-occupied north on Sunday.

“Those who saw our determination in the Eastern Mediterranean and realized that they cannot make our country step back with empty threats and blackmail have eventually paid heed to our calls for dialogue,” the Turkish president told The Peninsula.