ANKARA – Stepping up his belligerence, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said if Greece doesn’t take troops off islands near Turkey’s coast that military action could be taken.
Erdogan spoke on the final day of Turkish military maneuvers, attended by 37 countries, after he warned he was “not joking” about making Greece back down, citing the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne he doesn’t recognize unless invoking to his advantage over a number of issues.
Erdogan, said Kathimerini, used the military exercises to further push his demands after he said he would no longer speak with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the European Union not fully backing Greece.
In a speech while observing the exercises off the Aegean coastal province of Izmir, Erdogan said, “The effort to use islands with a non-military status in various exercises and the effort to instrumentalize NATO and third countries in this illegality has no meaning other than an effort that will end up in disaster.”
Greece, he added, must “get a grip” and “avoid dreams, acts and statements that will result in regret,” and noted how Turkey in the early 1920’s drove Greeks out of Anatolia, seizing the territory.
“Turkey will not renounce its rights in the Aegean and will not back down from using rights that are established by international agreements when it comes to arming islands,” he said.
“We invite Greece to stop arming the islands that have non-military status and to act in accordance with international agreements,” Erdogan said“I’m not joking, I’m speaking seriously. This nation is determined.”
“We warn Greece to stay away from dreams and actions that it will regret, and to come to his senses,” Erdogan said. “Turkey won’t give up on its rights in the Aegean, in the same way that it will not stand back from using its rights stemming from international agreements,” the Associated Press reported.
Turkey will act, he said, in accordance with “our obligations arising from international treaties” and in line with “responsibilities arising from history and our culture,” after his government said it has a Blue Homeland doctrine claiming waters around Greek islands.
Erdogan earlier had said it would be a cause for war if Greece doubled its maritime boundaries to 12 miles, which would cut off Turkey’s coast, and he also plans to send an energy research vessel and warships there.
Turkey has also repeatedly sent F-16 fighter jets to violate Greek airspace, with NATO – the defense alliance to which belong – saying it wants no part of the troubles between them.
Mitsotakis said he wouldn’t take the bait of Erdogan’s bellicose statements and would keep trying dialogue and diplomacy that have failed with the volatile Turkish leader who seems emboldened over the EU’s tepid response.
Greek government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou denounced Turkey’s interpretation of treaties regarding the status of the eastern Aegean islands as “baseless myths that can neither challenge nor be a substitute for international law and international treaties.”
“Absolutely nothing and in no way can harm our sovereign rights and our national sovereignty. That is why we call on Turkey to stop its tactics of provocation and to realize that the only way is responsible and honest communication, in the context of international law and with absolute respect for sovereignty,” he said.
Greece produced maps showing its sovereignty over the islands, with Erdogan openly coveting the return of those ceded away under the 1923 treaty, Greece insisting he has no legal grounds for his arguments.