Foreign Minister: Turkey will occupy the islands if Greece does not demilitarize them

Greece must withdraw its troops from the islands of the Aegean, otherwise Turkey will “go further”if Athens does not do so, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Thursday. He added that Ankara is ready to challenge their sovereignty.

“We are not bluffing. If Athens does not obey, we will move on.” quotes Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet quoted Cavusoglu as he told reporters on his return flight from a trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“The cancellation by Greece of the status of islands, conditionally granted to it under the Lausanne Peace Agreement of 1923 and the Paris Peace Agreement of 1947, is contrary to international law. Whatever reason Greece finds, its justification is invalid. What were the conditions? She will not arm these islands. Greece has been arming them since 1960, so we say that if it does not give in, we will start a debate about their sovereignty,” Cavusoglu said.

He reaffirmed Ankara’s position that “Greece’s cancellation of the status of islands conditionally granted to it under the Lausanne Peace Agreement of 1923 and the Paris Peace Agreement of 1947 is contrary to international law,” Cumhuriyet reported.

The Turkish official said that Greece’s excuse is invalid and Turkey is ready to start a debate about its sovereignty if Greece does not withdraw its military forces from the islands in question.

Cavusoglu’s threats came a day after Greece sent UN Secretary General António Guterres letter, in which she “legally and historically”, on the basis of the Lausanne 1923 and Paris 1947 treaties, refutes the claims of Turkey.

Excerpts from Greece’s letter to the UN

“Greece completely rejects all the arguments contained in Turkey’s letter of September 30, which bear a clear resemblance to the arguments contained in its previous letter of July 13, 2021, as legally, historically and factually untenable. Any attempt to question Greek sovereignty over these islands on the unfounded assumption that Greece is allegedly violating its obligation to demilitarize them under the aforementioned treaties is contrary to the fundamental principle of international law regarding the stability of frontiers and titles of sovereignty.

All of the above Greek islands are entitled to the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, in accordance with Article 121(2) UNCLOS. Therefore, since Greek sovereignty over the said islands is legally indisputable, their right to maritime zones and their influence on maritime delimitation have nothing to do with the question of their demilitarization.

Greece remains firmly convinced that the two countries can resolve their unresolved differences, namely the delimitation of their continental shelves and exclusive economic zones, in the spirit of good neighborly relations and in accordance with international law. Greece calls on Turkey to also commit itself to a peaceful settlement of this disagreement.”

The entire text of the letter in English is here in PDF

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