Turkey has lashed out at Greece for deploying troops to Meis (Kastellorizio) Island, just two kilometers away from the Turkish shores, in violation of 1947 agreements that pledge a demilitarized status to it amid ongoing tension between the two neighbors in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Media outlets have been reporting that Greece is resorting to a military build-up on the island of Kastellorizo, which is under a demilitarized status established with the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty. If true, these media reports are a novel manifestation of the law-disrespecting actions of Greece and her true intentions regarding the eastern Mediterranean,” Hami Aksoy the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement late Aug. 30.
Greek media reported that troops were sent to Meis Island over the weekend but did not provide details about the motive of the deployment. There are claims that the soldiers were already stationed on the island and it was a routine troop rotation. There was no official statement from Athens.
“We reject the illegitimate attempts of changes on the status of the Island. We also underline that Turkey will not allow such a provocation immediately across her coasts to attain its goal,” Aksoy stated.
“Should Greece continue to take tension-increasing steps in the region, she will be the one suffering from it. Turkey is determined indefinitely to defend her rights and interests stemming from international law,” he added.
Turkey complaints that Greece has already deployed troops and heavy weaponry on 16 out of 23 islands, which have been given a demilitarized island status by the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty. Greece had started to deploy troops to these islands in the aftermath of Turkey’s intervention into Cyprus, citing changed conditions and article 51 of the U.N. Charter.
“If they claim that the conditions have changed, the only way for it to convene the parties to the agreement is to discuss changes on it,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told the A Haber over the weekend.
Turkey slams ‘Macron’s red line’
In a separate statement, Aksoy did criticize French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks on Turkey as he said he had adopted a “red-line policy” in the region backing Greece against Turkey over the exploration of energy resources. He also suggested that Turkey’s recent moves were in violation of NATO’s strategies.
“Those who think to have drawn red lines against the righteous cause of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean will only face Turkey’s firm stance. If there is a red line in the region, this can only be Turkey’s and Turkish Cypriots’ rights stemming from international law,” said Aksoy.
Ties between Turkey and France have strained in an unprecedented way in the recent period as two allies pit against each other in Libya, Syria and now in the eastern Mediterranean. “It is high time for those who are in a delusion of grandeur to face reality. The era of defining imperialist conceptions by drawing lines on maps is long gone,” Aksoy said, referring to France’s colonial past.
“On this occasion, we would like to remind that the disputes in the eastern Mediterranean will be resolved based on equity, not through incitements of non-regional actors, but only through dialogue and cooperation among littoral states,” he added.
‘Bring it on’: Erdoğan
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in an address on the occasion of the graduation ceremony of the National Defense University late Aug. 30, slammed French and Greek governments over the ongoing conflict in the region.
“From now on, we, with a stronger voice, a more sincere belief and more self-confidence than yesterday, say ‘Bring it on!’ to our enemies. All who will confront us on land, at sea and in the air must have seen Turkey’s determination on defending its rights, interests and means whose legitimacy is provided by the international law,” Erdoğan said.
“I wonder if those who stand against us in the Mediterranean and its vicinity can afford the same sacrifices? Do the Greek people accept the things they will face because of their overambitious and incompetent leaders? Are the French people aware of the prices they will pay because of their overambitious and incompetent leaders?” he asked.
Hurriyet Daily News