LONDON: Greece’s prime minister said on Tuesday his country has experienced an “unprecedented barrage” of Turkish violations of its airspace and is ready to defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights.
“We had an unprecedented barrage of overflights and a constant return to unthinkable assertions of supposedly reduced sovereignty of the Greek islands,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis was quoted as saying by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
He described the development as “unpleasant” because he thought that Greece and Turkey had found a “framework for mutual understanding” after he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He said Turkey’s provocative rhetoric “can lead us nowhere.”
He continued: “Our country's obligation is to point out this provocation to our allies and seek their support, whether we are talking about the US or the EU. This support was given publicly and unconditionally.”
“We have seen periods of heightened tension in rhetoric in the past. I pray, hope and openly encourage Turkey that this rhetoric is not translated into greater tension in the field,” Mitsotakis said.
Turkey on Tuesday called on Greece to withdraw its armed forces from Aegean islands, warning that Ankara will challenge the status of the islands if Athens failed to demilitarize them.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a joint news conference with his North Macedonian counterpart, that Greece has been building a military presence on the Aegean islands in violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Paris Treaty.
He said the islands were ceded to Greece on condition that they be kept demilitarized.
“The agreements are there but Greece is violating them. It’s arming them. If Greece does not stop this violation, the sovereignty of the islands will be brought up for discussion,” he said. “It’s that clear. You will abide by the agreements.”
Greece argues that Turkey has deliberately misinterpreted the treaties regarding armed forces on its eastern islands and says it has legal grounds to defend itself following hostile actions by Ankara including a long-standing threat of war if it extends its territorial waters.
The Turkish minister’s comments come amid a new escalation in tensions between the NATO allies that have a history of disputes over a range of issues including mineral exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and rival claims in the Aegean Sea.