ΑΝΚΑRΑ — Two weeks after a four-hour exploratory chat between officials from the two countries in Constantinople, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar claimed again that Greece is unlawfully keeping troops on Eastern Aegean islands near Turkey.
That came as the talks, the 61st in nearly two decades, are set to resume again in March in Athens, Turkey insisting that demilitarization of the Greek islands be on the agena, which Greece has rejected.
He also said high-level Greek military officers have gone to the islands without indicating why they wouldn’t if they want to check the troops he said shouldn’t be there in the first place.
“They have made 78 high-level visits to the islands right under our nose so far,” Akar told the Turkish daily Aksam, accusing Greece of maintaining troops on 16 of 23 Greek islands Ankara claims must be demilitarized under the terms of the Lausanne and Paris agreement although Turkey doesn’t recognize the 1923 Lausanne pact.
“I asked the German defense minister: ‘Who is expansionist?’,” Akar added, referring to his recent visit to Berlin, where he met with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer after Germany – which blocked Greece’s demands for sanctions for Turkey’s plans to drill for oil and gas off Greek islands – said it would also sell submarines to Turkey.
Akar criticized Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos for urging Germany not to sell the submarines that would take away Greece’s biggest military advantage in a conflict: Greece’s own German-made subs that are almost undetectable.
Akar said that Greece “is dreaming” by claiming that tension between the two neighbors has brought them to the brink of war. “We have no such thoughts, or such plans,” Akar said despite open threats by some Turkish officials to do so.
Earlier, Akar told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency he expected talks with Greece on the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean to be more “productive” at the same time he’s keeping up belligerent talk.
“We hope to come up with peaceful solutions to the problems between Greece and Turkey through these negotiations. We want everyone to know that we are ready to make necessary contributions to resolve the issues,” Akar said after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that’s dependent on Greece making the concessions.