U.S. says sovereignty of Greek Islands not in dispute

The U.S. Department of State told Turkey that the sovereignty of Greek islands is not in dispute, the Greek Reporter news website said on Tuesday.

A war of words has been escalating between Turkey and Greece over disputed territories in the Aegean and Mediterranean. Turkey claims Greece is violating international agreements by militarising islands near its shoreline, a charge Greece denies.

“When the time comes, we’ll do what’s necessary," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a speech on Saturday. “We may come to get you suddenly one night,” he added referring to a popular Turkish adage.

“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and protected. Greece’s sovereignty over these islands is not disputed. We call on all parties to refrain from rhetoric and actions that could further escalate tensions,” the Athens Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) cited a State Department spokesman as saying.

The U.S. official said that Erdogan’s rhetoric concerning territorial disputes was unhelpful, urging the two NATO allies to resolve issues diplomatically, the Greek Reporter said.

“The United States continues to encourage our NATO allies to work together to maintain peace and security in the region, and to resolve differences diplomatically,” the official said.

The official made the statement after the European Union raised concerns over remarks by Turkish officials against Greece, labelling them as "hostile" and urging Turkey to respect Greece's territorial integrity.

“The continuous hostile remarks by the political leadership of Turkey against Greece…raise serious concerns and fully contradict much-needed de-escalation efforts in the eastern Mediterranean,” Peter Stano, spokesman for European Union Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell, said on Monday.

“The EU reiterates its expectation from Turkey to seriously work on de-escalating tensions in a sustainable way in the interest of regional stability in the eastern Mediterranean and fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU member states,” Stano said. "Threats and aggressive rhetoric are unacceptable and need to stop."

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