Turkey Wants Greek Island Demilitarization in Coming Talks

September 25, 2020

Greece's suspicions Turkey wanted to wrangle more out of negotiations over seas boundaries were realized when Turkey said it wants to include the demilitarization of some Greek islands on the agenda.

Turkey has long been demanding Greece remove troops from islands near Turkey's coast, including some of those that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants returned.

They were ceded away in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that Turkey doesn't recognize unless invoking to its advantage as some Turkish officials have openly called for them to be invaded and seized.

The technical talks between Greece and Turkey were scheduled after Erdogan pulled back the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and warships from near the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

Their presence in Greece's Continental Shelf had led the Greek Navy to send ships to monitor their adversaries, bringing worry of an accidental conflict that could engulf the region.

The European Union has scheduled an Oct. 1-2 showdown with Erdogan over the Turkish provocations as Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis demanded sanctions if Turkey doesn't pull back.

The talks ahead of that meeting are aimed at reaching some kind of resolution over rights to the seas in the East Mediterranean and Aegean after Turkey claimed waters under a maritime deal with Libya no other country accepts.

Greece countered with a similar agreement with Egypt that led an earlier round of talks in Ankara to be called off and Erdogan said he still plans to send his ships back into Greek waters, including off Crete.

Turkey’s National Security Council urged respect for the country’s “principled stance and rights” from the European Union and all countries, including “those that illegally arm demilitarized islands.”

That was an apparent reference to the military presence on Kastellorizo and other islands in the eastern Aegean, Turkey's pro-government newspaper the  Daily Sabah reported.

“Turkey is always in favor of dialogue on every platform for fair sharing of natural resources in the region,” the statement added, referring to the occupied north of Cyprus which Turkey invaded in 1974.

Turkey keeps a 35,000-strong army there and is already drilling in Cypriot waters, ignoring soft EU sanctions, the bloc reluctant to provoke Erdogan, fearing he will send more refugees and migrants who went to his country fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands.

Turkey's “attitude and actions” in the Eastern Mediterranean are in line with its commitment “rightness, fairness and justice” on every regional and global dispute, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported the council as saying, both essentially tools for Erdogan. 

In January, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Greece should demilitarize 16 Greek islands near Turkey's coast, which he said has a “non-military status.”

Arming 16 out of 23 islands with non-military status is in violation of agreements in the Aegean sea, he said during a visit to Turkey’s missile producer Roketsan, reported Anadolu then.

"We expect Greece to act according to international law, agreements and good neighborly relations,” he was quoted as saying, without mentioning that Turkey doesn't recognize some international laws unless invoking them in its favor.

Akar also claimed that Turkey's drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot sovereign waters was being done “in accordance with international law and the territorial integrity of the countries,” although Turkey doesn't recognize the United Nations Law of the Sea.


ATHENS - Sending mixed signals, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is continuing to confound Greece's New Democracy government about his intentions after a NATO meeting in Madrid where he refused to meet Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

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