Greece and Turkey came to the brink of war three times in 2020 due to a dispute over natural gas resources off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said.
“Three times there was a universal mobilisation of the armed forces,” he said, the National Herald reported on Thursday.
The two countries were on the verge of armed confrontation in the summer of last year when Turkey sent its Oruç Reis seismic research ship escorted by warships near to Kastellorizo, located a few kilometres off Turkey’s southern coast, to explore for oil and natural gas. Greece dispatched warships and planes in response.
Panagiotopoulos said that a demand by Turkey for it to demilitarise islands close to the Turkish shoreline was out of the question so long as a military threat remained.
Turkey is seeking to discuss a whole range of issues with Greece during bilateral exploratory diplomatic contacts that began late last month, including withdrawing Greek armed forces from the islands.
In January last year, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that Greece had violated international law by arming 16 of 23 Aegean islands placed under demilitarised status and called on Greece to remove its troops.
“We explain them that we are coming to discuss specific issues on the agenda and that these preliminary discussions take place on these specific issues only, and not on any possible claim that Turkey may make, say demilitarization of the islands,” Panagiotopoulos said, referring to the meeting held on Jan.25.