Erdogan increases tension with Greece and insists on the demilitarization of the Aegean islands: “I’m not kidding”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the public while watching a military exercise near Izmir, Turkey (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS) (MURAT CETINMUHURDAR/PPO/)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan increases tension with Greece. This Thursday the Turkish president once again demanded that Athens put an end to what he considers a “militarization” of the Aegean islands near the Turkish coast, threatening “consequences” if he persists in his attitude.

“We once again invite Greece to put an end to the attitude of arming the islands with demilitarized status and to respect international agreements,” said the president during military exercises that are being held today on the Aegean coast south of Izmir, between the Greek islands of Chios and Samos.

“I’m not kidding, I’m serious. We are a serious nation and when we say something, we follow up”insisted the Turkish head of state in a speech broadcast live on the chain NTV.

Erdogan described the attitude of “some Greek politicians” as an “impertinence” intended “for domestic politics”, which, he warned, “It can have serious consequences.”

“Behave yourself, we warned you. Turkey will not give up using the power conferred on it by international treaties on the militarization of the islands to protect its rights,” she added.

Ankara considers that the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios and Icaria cannot have fortifications or naval bases, or important military contingents according to the Lausanne treaty of 1923. In addition, the Dodecanese islands, located further south in the Aegean Sea, must be “demilitarized”, as established in the 1974 Paris treaty.

Erdogan watches the military maneuvers that took place on the Aegean coast south of Izmir, between the Greek islands of Chios and Samos (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS)
Erdogan observes the military maneuvers that took place on the Aegean coast south of Izmir, between the Greek islands of Chios and Samos (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS) (MURAT CETINMUHURDAR/PPO/)

This last treaty ceded the sovereignty of the Dodecanese, then Italian, to Greece, and Turkey is not a signatory, so it cannot be considered an aggrieved party, according to Athens.

On Tuesday, however, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavusogluadvanced that “Greek sovereignty” over these islands will be questioned, if Athens does not give up its attitude.

Turkey and Greece have been fighting for decades over military dominance in Aegean watersbut in recent years they have also clashed over the delimitation of exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean, where natural gas deposits are being explored.

The Greek government, for its part, called on Turkey on Thursday to stop its “provocative tactics” and opt for the “path of responsible and honest communication”, after Erdogan’s threats.

In a statement, the government spokesman, Yannis Ikonomudescribed Turkey’s claims to the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean near the Turkish coast as “allegations alien to history” and “myths” and stressed that these claims “cannot challenge, let alone replace, international law and international treaties”.

A handout photo released by the Greek National Defense Ministry on August 26, 2020 shows Greek Hydra-class frigate Psara (F-454) of the Hellenic Navy and a military helicopter taking part in a military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, on August 25 , 2020. - Greece said it will launch military exercises on August 25 with France, Italy and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, the focus of escalating tensions between Athens and Ankara.  The joint exercises south of Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete will last three days, the defense ministry said.  The discovery of major gas deposits in waters surrounding Crete and Cyprus has triggered a scramble for energy riches and revived old rivalries between NATO members Greece and Turkey.  (Photo by Handout / GREEK DEFENSE MINISTRY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT
Turkey demands that Greece demilitarize the Aegean islands (GREEK DEFENSE MINISTRY / AFP) (HANDOUT /)

Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, urged to “avoid provocations” in the area and “maintain peace and bilateral relations” after Ankara’s threats. “Peace and the maintenance of relations must always be guaranteed within the framework of International Law, the Law of the Sea and respect for the territorial integrity of other countries,” he said.

Yesterday, Erdogan once again described even US military bases on Greek territory as a threat to Turkey, despite the fact that all three countries are members of NATO. “Currently there are nine US bases established in Greece. Against whom? They say that Russia, but we do not buy it, I say it without offending anyone, “he said at a press conference after his meeting with the Venezuelan dictator, Nicolás Maduro.

The Turkish president took the opportunity to reiterate Ankara’s opposition to the inclusion of Sweden and Finland in NATO and has accused the Nordic countries of harboring terrorists, according to information from the newspaper ‘Hurrayet’.

“As long as terrorists remain in their parliaments, Turkey will not support their inclusion in NATO,” he said.

With information from EFE and Europa Press

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