ATHENS – Although his government pulled back demands for European Union sanctions, the head of Greece's armed force said Turkey is a danger to regional peace with plans to hunt for energy off Greek islands, as tension rises.
Speaking to a defense conference at the Hellenic Air Force Academy, Gen. Konstantinos Floros said by sending the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and warships off Kastellorizo and other provocative acts “constitute a major escalation and a direct threat against peace and stability in the region.”
“Ankara’s attempt to contest and seize Greek exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf by signing an illegal agreement with the Government of National Accord of Libya for the delimitation of purported common boundaries is an example of Turkey’s revisionist policy in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he added, said Kathimerini.
“This agreement contravenes international law, violates our sovereign rights and seriously jeopardizes peace and stability in the region,” he said, with Turkey claiming Greek waters under a maritime deal with Libya no other country accepts.
“It should be understood by all that sovereign rights over maritime zones can be legally exercised only through negotiated international agreements, between responsible governments, in full respect of the UN Law of the Sea,” Floros said, which Turkey doesn't recognize.
“Anything else, like coercion, threats, intimidation, provocations, and military manipulation cannot be accepted by Europe,” he added, the paper said although Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he still wants to give diplomacy a chance.
“The research vessel is escorted by Turkish Navy war-ships, indicating Ankara’s will to militarize the issue against all efforts undertaken by NATO for military deconfliction and reduction of risk and accidents,” Floros said.
The Greek and Turkish navies are shadowing each other in the East Mediterranean and Aegean but the EU, reluctant to confront Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said it won't consider sanctions until year's end.
Floros noted Greece is at the edge of the EU's borders but Erdogan has threatened to unleash on the bloc – through Greece – more refugees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their countries unless he gets his way.
“This is a point to be made loud and clear. We are protecting, not only the Greek borders and interests, but also the European ones,” said Floros.