‘Greece violates law by militarizing Aegean islands’

Greece is acting against international law by militarizing the Aegean islands that have a nonmilitarized status, spokesperson of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Ömer Çelik said on Tuesday.

“We always say that Greece is our neighbor. We have the capability and historical experience to solve our own problems at the table with our neighbor as Turkey is open to dialogue,” Çelik told reporters as the party’s Central Decision and Executive Board meeting was continuing in the capital Ankara.

He said Greece’s constant attempts to involve other countries in the issue prevents the ongoing process from progressing in a positive direction.

Greece is the party that is violating international law in the recent crisis, I have asserted.

The spokesperson also reiterated Ankara’s call on Athens to resolve the recent problems between the two countries at the table via diplomatic means.

Çelik accused Greece of delaying every solution-oriented proposal by Turkey and of continuing its unlawful acts.

As long as Greece continues its unlawful activities, Ankara will clearly exhibit its presence in the field, he said.

Chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the closed-door meeting lasted two hours.

Turkey and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, air space, energy, the divided island of Cyprus and the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea.

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that their excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

Meanwhile, Greek lawmaker Kleon Grigoriadis has accused the Greek government of turning the country into a “huge US base.”

Greece last month formally extended its bilateral military agreement with the United States for five years, replacing an annual review of the deal that grants the US military access to three bases in mainland Greece as well as the American naval presence on the island of Crete.

In a speech in parliament on Tuesday, Grigoriadis, a deputy of the left-wing MeRA25 party, criticized the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over its foreign policy.

He said an atmosphere of war with Turkey has been created in the press.

“At the moment, American soldiers, not Turkish soldiers, are wandering in Crete, Alexandroupoli (Dedeağaç), Larisa and other areas left by (the left-wing party) Syriza’s old comrades to the United States. Let’s be clear: Greece has now turned into a huge US base,” Grigoriadis said.

The lawmaker stated that the creation of such a perception was aimed at intimidating Greek citizens so that the conversion of Greece into a US base would be acceptable.

Mitsotakis, on the other hand, sought to reassure his compatriots late Tuesday that “despite strong rhetoric from Turkey,” relations are not at the low of 2020 when the neighbors’ warships were shadowing each other in the Eastern Mediterranean.

A dispute over drilling rights for potential oil and gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea led to a tense naval standoff in the summer of 2020. Greece has since embarked on a major military modernization program.

In an interview with state broadcaster ERT, Mitsotakis dismissed Turkey’s questioning of Greek sovereignty over many of the eastern Greek islands, including the popular resorts of Rhodes, Kos and Samos just off western Turkey, as “completely irrational.”

Erdoğan last week warned Greece to demilitarize its Aegean islands and said he was “not joking.” He spoke during Turkish military drills in western Izmir province that included an amphibious landing scenario.

“There is high verbal tension, but we don’t yet have – and I hope we don’t reach that point – tension in the field,” he said.

“We must meet, and we must talk,” Mitsotakis told ERT.

Turkey is demanding that Greece demilitarize its eastern islands, citing the 20th-century treaties that ceded sovereignty of the islands to Greece.

The Greek government calls the demand a deliberate misinterpretation and has accused Turkey, a fellow NATO member, of stepping up hostile actions in the area.

Starting from the Treaty of London in 1913, the militarization of the eastern Aegean islands was restricted and their demilitarized status was confirmed with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The Lausanne pact established a political balance between the two countries by harmonizing vital interests , including those in the Aegean.

The 1947 Treaty of Paris, which ceded the Dodecanese islands from Italy to Greece, also confirmed their demilitarized status.

However, Greece argues that the 1936 Montreux Convention on Turkish Straits should be applied in this case, while Ankara says Greece’s obligation to disarm the islands remains unchanged under the Montreux Convention, highlighting that there is no provision that differentiates it from the Treaty of Lausanne on the issue.

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