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Politics

Turkey’s Defense Chief Demands Greece Take Troops Off Islands

December 31, 2020

Although Greece has repeatedly rejected the demand, Turkey – this time through Defense Minister Hulusi Akar – insisted again Greece take troops off islands in the Eastern Aegean near Turkey's coast.

Akar said that Greece is violating the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne by militarizing 16 islands, citing a 97-year-old agreement that Turkey doesn't recognize and wants rewritten, seeking the return of some islands ceded to Greece.

Speaking to the A Haber TV network, Akar said Greece is positioning itself for trouble and that it has only six nautical miles of territorial waters and 10 nautical miles of airspace, both regularly violated by Turkish fighter jets and warships.

He also described visits by top politicians and the military to these islands as “provocative,” which increase tension in the region without mentioning that Turkey, after temporarily removing an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo plans to send them in agan.

The Treaty of Lausanne was a peace agreement which settled the various conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and the Allied Powers but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn't like the terms and wants them written nearly a century later.

Greece had called for sanctions against Turkey for the repeated provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean but the European Union blinked after vowing to implement them in December and said they won't even be discussed until March, 2021.

That has kept the tension high and brought fears there could be conflict although the temperature has come down over the holidays, Greece building an international alliance against Turkey.

In September, 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 then.

“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'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.

In January, 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 often.

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