Greece says it’s open to talks with Turkey if Ankara halts ‘provocations’

Athens on Sunday said it wished for a constructive dialogue with neighbouring Turkey based on international law on condition that Ankara halt what it is calling an unprecedented escalation of provocations.

“It is up to Turkey to choose if it will come to such a dialogue or not, but the basic ingredient must be a de-escalation,” Greek newspaper Kathimerini cited Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias as telling Proto Thema newspaper in an interview.

NATO members Turkey and Greece have been at odds over decades a string of issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and disagreements over the airspace there. Tensions have been escalating in recent months over the eastern Mediterranean and the islands of the Aegean, where Greek and Turkish claims overlap.

Dendias blamed Ankara for increased provocations with a rhetoric of false and legally baseless claims, “even personal insults,’’ Kathimerini reported.

“The one responsible for a de-escalation is the one causing the escalation, which is Turkey,” Dendias said.

Turkey last Monday Turkey summoned the Greek ambassador to protest the alleged deployment of dozens of U.S.-made armoured vehicles to Greek islands, which Ankara says should remain demilitarised in line with international treaties.

The move arrived as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned that Turkey would not hold back on defending its rights and interests against Greece after accusing Athens of carrying out a “covert occupation” of the islands of the eastern Aegean.

Turkey says the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris require Greece’s eastern Aegean islands to remain demilitarised. It says that Greece has armed 16 out of the 23 islands since 1936 in violation of international law. Greece says circumstances have fundamentally changed and the restrictions do not apply.

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