NICOSIA — Accusing Turkey of trying to change history as it makes claims for waters around Greek islands, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said Greece will defend itself if a conflict develops.
He was on Cyprus for a meeting with the defense chiefs of the island and Egypt and told news channel RIK that, “It is the sovereign right of every country to organize the defense of its territories, to take steps to defend its territory when it feels threatened and that threat is deemed to be credible”.
That was in reference to Turkey repeatedly demanding Greece removes troops from islands near Turkey's coast that would make them easier to grab, with Turkey not recognizing the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that ceded islands to Greece.
“The allies are listening and understanding, as they now comprehend the extent of Turkey’s revisionist illegal behavior,” he said when describing the international attitude to the region, adding that Greece’s policy is “paying off,” said Kathimerini.
“We are cautious but are acting in good faith. This is why we are taking part in these exploratory talks,” he said of the ongoing discussions between the countries, two held so far that went no where.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who pulled warships and an energy research vessel from near the Greek island of Kastellorizo to avoid any chance of European Union sanctions said he would send them back.
Turkey is also drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters in defiance of soft EU sanctions, with Erdogan apparently further emboldened after avoiding penalties for provocations with Greece.
“There must be understanding and abidance especially towards international law, which governs the relations between states,” he said, an approach that has failed in dealing with Turkey so far.
.e also mentioned an agreement between Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt to increase defense cooperation in the region and improve their military capability although it wasn't said if there would a mutual defense deal.