ATHENS – With Turkey and Greece’s foreign chiefs taking shots at each other over the rights to the seas, the head of Turkey’s main nationalist party, Devlet Bahceli, said Greece should stop acquiring weapons.
Speaking during a parliamentary meeting of his Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Bahceli said Greece should not rely too much on the fighter jets and the frigates it purchased from France and said Greece is violating maritime rights.
“No one should flex their muscles against us or make cowardly threats. The Aegean will either be a sea of peace and tranquility or the Turkish nation knows how to sign a new victory with their blood or their lives,” said Bahceli, a key ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Kathimerini.
Bahceli said Greece is tring to “invade” Turkish waters and violated the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne – which Turkey doesn’t recognize. “The constant opportunism of Greece shows it is quickly advancing towards becoming a rogue state,” Bahceli said.
“Greece must return to the law of good neighborliness while there is still time,” he said, ratcheting up the rhetoric again as Turkey has alternated offering diplomacy with threats of aggression unless it gets its way.
Greece said it has the right to extend its territorial waters from the current six to 12 nautical miles around its Aegean islands, in accordance with the United Nations Law of the Sea – which Turkey’s hasn’t signed but invokes to its advantage.
If Greece moved to extend its seas sovereignty, Turkey said it would be a cause for war and the two sides have at times come close to conflict over Turkey’s plans to hunt for energy around Greek islands.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias accused Turkey of failing to abide by international law, in turn blaming Athens for tensions in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey is drilling off Cyprus as well.
That didn’t sit well in Turkey.
“The antagonistic statements against Turkey… made almost every day are populist, unserving of peace and stability as well as being totally detached from reality,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said in a statement.
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He added that, “This provocative rhetoric is neither compatible with good neighborly relations nor with the spirit of consultative talks we have relaunched with Greece,” referring to a 62nd round of exploratory talks that have gone nowhere.
“These delusions of Dendias prove that Greece prefers tension by creating artificial alliances and relying on favors of third parties against Turkey instead of resolving its bilateral issues and developing relations through an honest and meaningful dialogue with Turkey,” Bilgic said.
“Countries which have self confidence do not display such (an) attitude,” he said, the paper added as the tension has picked up again between the countries, the European Union and NATO still staying above the fray.
Bilgic said that it was Greece provoking trouble by pursuing maximalist goals in the Aegean and the Mediterranean Sea “which are against international law,” – which Turkey doesn’t accept.
“We totally reject Greece’s attempts to create a misleading perception and to label our country’s will to defend its legitimate rights and vital interests as a threat,” he also said.
“We invite Greece once again to adhere to common sense and to respect international law and international treaties, instead of pursuing provocative rhetoric and activities with populist motives and grave miscalculations,” he said.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Papaioannou – also in a statement that’s become the favored way of verbal attacks without being asked questions by reporters – fired back later.
“Greece remains committed to its respect for international law and to the protection of the country’s national interests,” he said.
“It is paradoxical that a country that has repeatedly … issued a number of aggressive statements through the lips of government officials who are directly threatening Greece and who even question its territorial integrity, would accuse our country of (engaging in) ‘provocative rhetoric and activities’,” he said, the report added.
Papaioannou said that “Greece will continue to build ties with neighboring and other countries in the context of respect for international law and good neighborly relations,” and urged Turkey to “respect these fundamental principles.”
He said that Greece won’t back away from building alliances, as there’s also a mutual defense agreement with France and plans to acquire warships from the United States, which whom Greece renewed a military cooperation deal.
“Greece makes no unlawful unilateral claim and it maintains its legal right to self-defense in line with the Charter of the United Nations,” he said.