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Politics

Threatening Turkish Defense Chief Turns Heat Up on Greece

ANKARA – Stepping back from feigned diplomacy, Turkey’s Defense Minsiter Hulusi Akar has again lobbed verbal grenades at Greece with a warning not to extend its territorial waters from six to 12 miles in the seas between them.

Talking to reporters in Turkey, where the government is trying to crush independent media and jailing journalists while seeking admission to the European Union, he also again demanded Greece remove troops off islands near Turkey’s coast.

The two countries are members of NATO but the defense alliance wants no part of their battles and hasn’t moved to intervene over repeated Turkish provocations, including violating Greek airspace and waters with fighter jets and warships.

Akar has alternated between reaching out for dialogue, which has failed and issuing threats although he claimed he wants to make the Aegean a “sea of friendship” at the same time Turkey said it will hunt for energy off Greek islands.

“They (Greece) should not miscalculate and think it’s the right time (to extend the territorial waters to) 12 miles,” Akar said. “They should not test us in any way, and should not embark on such an adventure. I hope they don’t make such a mistake.”

He added: “Let the two sides benefit from the riches, let both the Turkish people and the Greek people live happily and prosperously,” he said, not mentioning that Turkey earlier said any attempt to extend Greece’s territorial waters would be a cause for war.

Tension has gone up and down since Turkey in the summer of 2020 claimed exploratory drilling rights in the Aegean and Greek waters at the same time it was unlawfully drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters, ignoring soft EU sanctions.

Greece said it has right to extend its territorial waters from the current six to 12 nautical miles around its Aegean islands but Turkey said that would cut off its access and fired back.

In January, the Greek parliament voted to extend its waters along its western coastline, on the other side of the country, to 12 miles which set off Turkey and a warning it shouldn’t be tried in the Aegean.

Greece recently called on Turkey to revoke the decision to consider an extension of the territorial waters as a cause for war if it wants to normalize ties and to stop provocations but Turkey blamed Greece for the troubles.

Commenting on the NATO alliance, Akar lamented what he said was “open or covert” arms embargo by some NATO allies on Turkey. He said those countries were “weakening” the alliance by not selling defense components to Turkey – which could be used against Greece.

UP IN ARMS

He didn’t mention Germany and Spain are selling armaments to Turkey as he complained that Greece is buying fighter jets and warships from France and entered into a mutual defense deal with the French.

The United States slapped sanctions on some Turkish defense officials and expelled Turkey from the US-led F-35 fighter jet program after Turkey purchased Russia’s advanced S-400 long-range missile defense system that undermines NATO’s security and threatens Greece.

Canada canceled export licenses for drone technology to Turkey in April 2020 after finding the equipment had been used by Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Arms control advocates had claimed the UAVs were using imaging and targeting systems produced by a Canadian company. In October 2019, Canada joined a handful of European countries, including France, the United Kingdom and Germany, in suspending arms exports after Turkey launched an operation in northeast Syria against Kurdish fighters.

Akar said talks with the U.S. over a Turkish request to purchase F-16 fighter planes as compensation for the $1.4 billion it spent on the F-35 program before its ouster were ongoing though and Turkey wants to buy kits to modernize its F-16 fleet.

Akar accused Greece of exploiting its EU membership to cover up its “illegal and aggressive actions” in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, again blaming Greece, reported Kathimerini.

“Notwithstanding our well-intentioned calls for dialogue, Greece tries to distort every truth and portray itself as a victim,” Akar said, adding that Greece is “disguising itself as a sheep in a bid to cover up its illegal and aggressive actions” against Turkey.

“(Greece) is taking advantage of its EU membership in order to forge alliances with [the bloc] and to create an artificial threat,” he said, saing that Greece is turning its disputes with Turkey into EU-Turkey, US-Turkey or NATO-Turkey differences.

He also accused Greece of violating the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 by refusing to demilitarize its islands, but didn’t note that Turkey doesn’t recognize that agreement unless invoking to its advantage and has coveted return of islands ceded away then.

“Greece is violating the regime on at least 16 of the 23 demilitarized islands in accordance with the Lausanne Treaty and other international treaties, equipping them and including these islands in NATO military exercises and other exercises,” he said.

Turkey also doesn’t accept the United Nations Law of the Sea but keeps citing it to back up its territorial claims although its drilling off Cyprus is a violation of that agreement.

 

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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