With Turkey having an energy research vessel and warships nearby, its government denounced what it called “illegitimate attempts” by Greece to change the status of the island of Kastellorizo and putting troops there.
The tiny, idyllic island about a mile from the Turkish coast could become a flash point for a conflict with Turkey planning to drill for oil and gas there, shadowed by ships from the Greek Navy in a tense standoff.
Turkey said there was news footage allegedly showing Greek forces on the island as Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy saying it's a violation of the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty requiring demilitarization of some islands.
“If true, these media reports are a novel manifestation of the law-disrespecting actions of Greece and her true intentions regarding the Eastern Mediterranean,” Aksoy said, Kathimerini reported.
“We reject the illegitimate attempts of changes on the status of the island,” Aksoy said, adding that Turkey “will not allow… such a provocation immediately across her coasts.”
“Such provocative actions will prove useless for Greece. Should Greece continue to take tension-increasing steps in the region, she will be the one suffering from it,” Aksoy said.
“Turkey is determined indefinitely to defend her rights and interests stemming from international law,” he said.
But the Bloomberg news agency reported the troops weren't put there but were already there and that there was a routine rotation being undertaken, not a military build-up.
The Greek government had no comment on Turkey’s demand to demilitarize the 12-square-kilometer (4.6-square-mile) island, the most distant Greek outpost in the East Mediterranean where provocations are reaching a near-conflict stage.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn't recognize the 1927 Treaty of Lausanne that set borders between the countries and said he covets return of some islands given Greece that are so close to Turkey he can shout to them.
Greece contends islands must be counted into the boundaries of a country's Continental Shelf in accordance with the United Nations Law of the Sea that Turkey doesn't recognize unless invoking to its advantage.
Turkey claimed parts of Greece's Continental Shelf under a maritime deal with Libya dividing the seas between them, Greece countering with a similar deal with Libya.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also said Greece would double its territorial waters boundaries in the Ionian Sea off the west coast to 12 miles and could do the same in the Aegean and the East Mediterranean, the United States supporting Turkey's argument that some waters there are disputed.
Turkey said a country’s continental shelf should be measured from its mainland, and that the area south of Kastellorizo would then be part of its Exclusive
The disputed region in the Mediterranean has yielded big natural gas finds for Cyprus, Israel and Egypt in recent years, the financial news agency noted, as the potential riches have pushed countries wanting to the near boiling point.
Turkey is already drilling off Cyprus where it has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion, the operations undeterred by soft European Union sanctions the bloc is unwilling to impose for violations of the Greek seas.
Germany has tried to broker a deal to ratchet down the tension but gotten nowhere and won't support sanctions against Turkey, fearful Erdogan will flood the bloc through Greek islands with more refugees and migrants who went to his country fleeing war, strife and economic misery in their homelands.
Turkey and Greece- which was joined by France, Israel, Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates – conducted military exercises in the waters that Turkey claims, causing fears that shooting could soon break out between them.
Erdogan struck a defiant tone, saying Turkey won't back down on its interests in the East Mediterranean at any cost, showing nothing but disdain so far for any attempts to stop him.
“Turkey will not bow to the language of threats, intimidation and blackmail, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, and will continue to defend its rights under international law and bilateral agreements,” Erdogan said, without noting he doesn't recognize those laws otherwise.