Germany should not take sides between Turkey and Greece, which have been recently experiencing increasing tensions due to disputes over territorial limits as well as the status of islands in the Aegean, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
Turkey called the remarks made by a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson regarding Greece’s unlawful claims on the disputed issues between Athens and Ankara “unfortunate.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christian Wagner said that recent statements by the Turkish government “do not help the constructive dialogue and stability in the region,” while “the aggressive rhetoric especially, as well as Turkish violations of the Greek airspace, give cause for concern.”
Responding to the remarks, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the “baseless allegations” by the German spokesperson are “unacceptable,” adding that it is Greece that violated Turkish airspace and made flights over its mainland.
“We would like to remind the German spokesperson that despite the invitations to the bilateral and NATO Confidence-Building Measures meetings, it is not Turkey that has not responded for a year and has announced that it has frozen these meetings using the latest tension in the Aegean as an excuse,” he said.
The ministry called on Germany, which claims to make efforts for dialogue and de-escalation, “not to take sides in the disputes between the two allies, not to be an instrument to the lawlessness of other countries, and not to make biased comments on the areas and issues in which it has no authority and responsibility.”
Turkey and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, airspace, energy, the divided island of Cyprus and the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea.
Turkey is demanding that Greece demilitarize its eastern islands, citing the 20th-century treaties that ceded sovereignty of the islands to Greece.
Ankara, 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.
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.
On the other side, Greek media and politicians accused NATO’s chief Wednesday of not being “unbiased” towards Turkish-Greek relations.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg referred to the ongoing tensions between the two neighboring NATO allies as a “dispute” during an interview with the Greek state-run news agency AMNA, causing an uproar in Greece.
He told AMNA that NATO encourages Greece and Turkey to resolve their disputes in accordance with the mutual trust and solidarity within the alliance.
NATO is a military alliance that includes numerous countries with different histories in a vast geography, and hence disagreements arising between some member states should not come as a surprise, Stoltenberg emphasized.
He also underscored that Ankara’s concerns about terrorism are legitimate and should be taken into serious account by its NATO allies.
Consequently, his remarks led to harsh criticism by Greek media outlets that often label Turkey as “aggressive.”
Of these, the daily Kathimerini called Stoltenberg’s comments “unfortunate” as he did not affirm so-called Turkish hostility.
The Avgi daily newspaper, which is close to the main opposition party SYRIZA-PS, underscored that the secretary-general treats Ankara and Athens equally and refused to condemn Turkish policies.
Moreover, In.gr, one of the country’s most-read news outlets, claimed that Stoltenberg is refraining from taking responsibility.
In addition, Nikos Andrulakis, the leader of the PASOK-KINAL party, said Stoltenberg “cannot act both as (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan’s ambassador and NATO secretary-general.