Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday warned Greece about the demilitarization of islands in the Aegean, saying he “doesn’t joke” with such statements. His close assistant Omer Celik went so far as to say, “We can come suddenly one night.”
“We are suggesting that Greece stop arming islands that have a non-military status and act in accordance with international agreements,” Erdogan said on the final day of military exercises near Izmir, on the Turkish Aegean coast. “I’m not joking, I’m serious. This nation is determined.”
New threats emerged the day the Greek Foreign Ministry published 16 Maps Exposing Turkey’s Illegal and Unilateral Claims in the Aegean Sea. She says Greece is building up its military presence in the Aegean in violation of treaties guaranteeing unarmed status on the islands. It claims that the islands were handed over to Greece on the condition that they remain demilitarized.
Greece claims Turkey deliberately misinterpreted treaties regarding military forces in its eastern islands and says it has legitimate grounds for defense in the wake of Ankara’s hostile actions, including the long-standing threat of war if it expands its territorial waters.
Erdogan’s warning came amid a new escalation in tensions between NATO allies, who have a history of disputes over a range of issues such as mineral exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and competing claims in the Aegean.
“We are warning Greece to stay away from dreams and actions that it will regret and come to your senses,” Erdogan said. “Turkey will not renounce its rights in the Aegean just as it will not renounce the exercise of its rights arising from international agreements.”