ATHENS – Ramping up provocations ahead of May 14 elections in Turkey where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing a challenge to his 20 years of authoritarian rule, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Greece is to blame for the tensions.
He repeated his claims that Greece “is violating treaties by militarizing its islands with demilitarized status,” Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast where he and Erdogan demanded Greek troops be removed.
They have cited the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne – which Turkey doesn’t recognize – as their basis and have said that it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles.
He said that Greek officials were making “provocative speeches, actions and activities during their visits to the islands,” which has infuriated Erdogan.
But he again said that the troubles could be cooled down if Greece would enter into “a dialogue on all issues,” although Erdogan refuses to talk to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and has broken off relations with him.
Erdogan told the state-run TV network TRT that, “Greece violates our airspace, harasses our aircraft and harasses our fishermen, raising the tension. To these hostile actions our Air Force is responding and will continue to respond.”
He said what he claimed was Greek aggression – it’s Turkey that keeps violating Greek airspace and plans to hunt for energy off Greek islands – was undermining NATO, to which both belong.
He didn’t mention that Turkey has bought Russian S-400 missile defense systems that undermine the defense alliance and could be used against Greece, Erdogan constantly threatening to invade.
“This attitude and the false propaganda are against the allied spirit. Greece is annoyed by Turkey’s rising profile around the world,” Erdogan said in what Greece believes is a pattern of trying to whip up nationalist fervor for the elections.
Turkey’s Anadolu Agency tweeted that Erdogan said Turkey will not stand idly by while Greece takes measures that threaten its security. “We will respond both legally and on the ground,” he said.
He claimed that Greece “panicked” because of Turkey’s Tayfun ballistic missile that he said could hit Athens in under 7 minutes.
“We built Tayfun and it has a range of 560 kilometers (348 miles.) But I asked for a range of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles.) Why the panic? You can build one too. Why are they bothered? We will not remain handcuffed to the actions taken against the security of our country,” he said.