Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Greece of occupying demilitarized islands in the Aegean Sea and said his country was ready to “do what is necessary” when the time comes.
“What I am telling is not a dream. If we say that we can come all of a sudden overnight, we can do so when the time comes, as I said,” Erdogan said in a statement tweeted by the Turkish Directorate of Communications.
Erdogan’s latest accusations are consistent with previous statements such as in February when he said Turkey was ready to issue a warning “at the highest level” if Athens did not demilitarize the Aegean islands.
But this marks the first time that the Turkish leader has accused Greece of occupying the demilitarized islands rather than merely arming them — something which Athens denies.
“Your occupying the islands does not bind us,” Erdogan said during a news conference, as reported by Reuters. “When the time, the hour, comes, we will do what is necessary.”
Athens responded that it would not follow Ankara in its “outrageous daily slide” of statements and threats.
“We will inform our allies and partners on the content of the provocative statements… to make it clear who is setting dynamite to the cohesion of our alliance during a dangerous period,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“At the same time, we will continue to serve as a pillar of stability and security for the wider region, on the basis of the rules of International Law and the International Law of the Sea,” the ministry said.
Turkish journalist and author Abdullah Bozkurt called Erdogan’s Turkey a “menace” in a tweet about his latest threats.
“In Bosnia today, Turkey’s strongman repeated his threats of military action against Greece, stressing that he ain’t bluffing, promises to launch a strike when his govt’s patience runs out at a point for which he characterizes as salvation,” Bozkurt said. “Erdogan’s Turkey is a menace.”
Turkey claims the Aegean islands were given to Greece under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and 1947 Paris Peace Treaty provided that it does not arm them. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has previously said his country would question Greek sovereignty over the islands if Greece continued to militarize them.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said Turkey challenging his country’s sovereignty over the islands is “absurd.”
Turkey and Greece have long experienced geopolitical tensions due to issues such as ships violating maritime boundaries and military planes violating aerial space over the Aegean islands. The 1974 Turkish invasion and subsequent partial occupation of Cyprus has also contributed to hostilities between the two NATO members.
Ankara recently accused Athens of harassing its air forces by using S-300 air defense systems to lock on to Turkish jets during a routine flight.
On August 30, Turkey celebrated Victory Day, a national holiday commemorating the Turkish victory against Greece in 1922.
During a press conference on September 3, Erdogan encouraged Greece to “not forget Izmir,” referring to the September 1922 Smyrna Catastrophe which caused hundreds of thousands of Greeks to flee the once-thriving cosmopolitan city as refugees.
Featured image: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (not pictured) during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia September 7, 2022. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
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