BY DAILY SABAH
Greece is not “honest and sincere” regarding the issues in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean and blocks the path to justice, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Wednesday.
Claims that Greece is preparing to attack Türkiye mean Athens has “lost its senses,” he added during a speech at a panel organized by the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) on Turkish foreign policy in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean regions.
“Athens knows very well what it means to oppose Ankara,” the Turkish top diplomat said, reminding Greece to “not look at who is behind you, but rather look at who you are facing.”
Regarding the U.S. military bases in Greece, Çavuşoğlu also said: “They say they were established against Russia, it is not credible. The impartiality of the U.S. has been broken.”
Türkiye and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, overlapping claims over their continental shelves, maritime boundaries, airspace, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus, the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea and migrants.
Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, has complained of repeated provocative actions and rhetoric by Greece in the region in recent months, including arming islands near Turkish shores that are demilitarized under treaties, saying that such moves frustrate its good faith efforts for peace. Ankara accuses Athens of illegally militarizing Greek islands in the East Aegean and questions Greece’s sovereignty over them. There is also a dispute over the exploitation of mineral resources in the Aegean.
Turkish military drones recently recorded the deployment of Greek armored vehicles on the islands of Lesbos and Samos, which Ankara maintains is in violation of international law. Following the incident, Ankara lodged a protest with the United States and Greece over the unlawful deployment of armored vehicles on Aegean islands with nonmilitary status.
Türkiye summoned the Greek ambassador and called for an end to violations on Aegean islands and restoring their nonmilitary status, according to the Foreign Ministry. In the note, the ministry stated that the deployment was another violation of Greece’s obligations under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris. These islands were required to be demilitarized under these treaties, so any troops or weapons on the islands are strictly forbidden.
Also, Türkiye has ramped up the criticism of its NATO ally United States for abandoning a balanced policy and escalating tensions on the issues of Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, reiterating that it will protect its rights and interests against the Greek side.
Despite saying that it has no intention of entering into an arms race with its neighbor and NATO ally Türkiye, Greece also continues to carry out an ambitious rearmament program for its armed forces. Greece’s burgeoning arms program is designed to counter the protection of Turkish interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Türkiye has often warned Greece against indulging in an arms race, offering to resolve all outstanding issues, including in the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean and the island of Cyprus, through dialogue.
Ties with Egypt
Çavuşoğlu also touched upon the normalization process with Egypt and said: “We have entered the normalization process with Egypt, this is a dual process. If Egypt is sincere about normalizing relations, it will take steps. Normalization is going slowly, but it’s not about us.”
The normalization process between Türkiye and Egypt continues at a gradual pace. Discussions are being held at the intelligence level and extending the process over time does not mean that it is not progressing positively, Ankara says.
After an eight-year break, an Egyptian delegation came to Ankara four months after the two-day visit of a Turkish delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal to Cairo, the capital of Egypt, in May last year, and consultative meetings were held.
Last year, Türkiye said it had resumed diplomatic contact with Egypt and wanted to improve cooperation after years of tensions that began with the disruption of relations in 2013. In May 2021, a delegation of senior Turkish officials traveled to Egypt for an official visit – the first since 2013 – to discuss normalizing diplomatic relations amid efforts by the two countries to improve bilateral ties that deteriorated following the Arab Spring. At the end of the visit, the two countries issued a joint statement describing the exploratory round of bilateral talks between them as “frank and in-depth.”
On May 7, 2021, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the start of a new phase in relations with Egypt, stressing that the talks would continue, develop and expand. The normalization of ties between Türkiye and Egypt is vital for the Eastern Mediterranean, Çavuşoğlu said this year.
Egypt and Türkiye have not deployed ambassadors since 2013, when relations worsened following the ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi by military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, now the country’s president. Türkiye-Egypt ties have continued at the level of charge d’affairs since 2013. During this period, brief meetings were held between the foreign ministers of the two countries on various occasions. Meanwhile, the Turkish Embassy in Cairo and consulate in Alexandria, as well as the Egyptian Embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul, have continued their usual activities.
Türkiye has engaged in an effort to mend its frayed ties with regional powers, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. Erdoğan reiterated that Türkiye hopes to maximize its cooperation with Egypt and Gulf nations “on a win-win basis,” at a time when Ankara intensified diplomacy to mend its fraught ties with Cairo and some Gulf Arab nations after years of tensions.