Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday called on Greece to stop the militarization of Aegean islands and act in accordance with international agreements, in remarks that are likely to increase the ongoing rift between Ankara and Athens.
The Turkish leader cautioned the neighbouring NATO ally to “stay away from dreams and actions that it will regret, and to come to its senses,” state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Military tensions between the two countries have re-intensified in the past two months after they blamed each other for violating sovereign airspace in the Aegean.
Turkey has long called on neighbouring Greece to demilitarize the Aegean islands in line with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, claiming the failure of Athens to do so brings their sovereignty into question. Athens has rejected Ankara’s demands on the islands near Turkey’s coast, citing Greece’s right to defend itself and its national sovereignty.
“We invite Greece to stop arming the islands that have non-military status and to act in accordance with international agreements,“ Anadolu cited the Turkish president as saying on the first day of military exercises taking place near Izmir, on Turkey’s Aegean coast. “I’m not joking, I’m speaking seriously. This nation is determined.”
“Turkey won’t give up on its rights in the Aegean, in the same way that it will not stand back from using its rights stemming from international agreement,” Erdoğan said.
Meanwhile, Greek government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou has said Greece was dealing with Turkish “provocations” with “calm and determination,” the Associate Press reported on Thursday.
“It is clear to everyone that our country has upgraded its geostrategic and geopolitical footprint as well as its deterrent capacity to be able at any time to defend its national sovereignty and sovereign rights,” Oikonomou said.
Ankara maintains that Greece has militarised 16 out of 23 of its Aegean islands in what it calls a flagrant violation of international agreements and international law and has sent two letters to the United Nations on the issue.