WASHINGTON – While also trying to sell F-16s to Turkey, the United States said the sovereignty of Greek islands that Turkey said it would challenge unless troops were removed is undisputed and can’t be legally challenged.
“Greece’s sovereignty over these islands is not in question,” the US State Department said in a statement, reported Kathimerini, with Greece and the US having also renewed a military cooperation agreement.
“We urge our allies to avoid rhetoric that could further raise tensions,” is said, adding that Greece and Turkey are “strong partners and key NATO allies to the US,” although Turkey has sent fighter jets into Greek airspace and bought a Russian-made S-400 missile system that undermine the alliance’s security./
“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and protected,” the State Department stressed, the US as usual trying to walk a fine diplomatic line to essentially support both sides.
Greece also got some unlikely partial backing from Germany, which had tried to stay neutral as Greece and Turkey were squaring off in a dispute over the rights to the seas, Turkey planning to hunt for energy off Greek islands.
A spokesperson for the German government told reporter that Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who had refused to support Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would no longer talk to the Greek leader, had a change of heart.
The spokesperson said that Scholz “is of the opinion that, given the current situation, it is necessary for all NATO allies to stand together and refrain from provocations between themselves,” using delicate language.
“Invading Greek airspace and flying over Greek islands is not OK, it seems counterproductive and against the spirit of the alliance,” added the spokesperson, who said Germany still prefers diplomacy and dialogue.
However, he insisted that “we cannot accept the questioning of the sovereignty of member-states of the European Union,” with Turkey trying to join the bloc since 2005, prospects worsening under Erdogan.
Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, have warned Greece to demilitarize its islands in the eastern Aegean or else have their sovereignty called into question by Turkey said Kathimerini.
Scholz turned around after meeting Mitsotakis after the Greek leader got unequivocal backing from French President Emmanuel Macron after France sold fighter jets and warships to Greece and the countries signed a mutual defense deal.
Greece is trying to stay calm in the face of growing provocations that have brought worry about a conflict, accidental or otherwise, Mitsotakis said trying not to unduly react to Erdogan’s incendiary language.
That includes Turkey saying it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles which could cut Turkey’s coast off from Aegean access where it plans for hunt for oil and gas.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexandros Papaioannou said Greece’s foreign policy “is based on specific values, principles, respect for international law and the law of the sea.”
“These values and these principles will continue to be our guide,” he said, adding that Greece will never go ad hominem on Turkey in response.
“We respond (to any provocations) with prudence and moderation [and] on the basis of international law, and at the same time we inform our partners and allies about developments,” he said, the paper also reported.