Turkey condemns Athens' ‘provocations’ as Mitsotakis urges Turks to ‘move forward’
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Saturday condemned the increasingly “provocative” rhetoric of Athens while blasting his Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos over his remarks during a recent visit to an eastern Aegean island that is part of a maritime dispute between the two countries.
Panagiotopulos, during a visit to the island of Kastellorizo, suggested that he could swim to shores of the southern town of Kaş, in an apparent reference to Akar’s previous remarks that the island was “swimming distance” from the Turkish coast, Turkish state-run TRT network reported on Saturday.
“Seeing [the Greeks’] provocative behaviour lately, we forgot that they know how to swim. If they cling to this mindset, knowing how to swim will come in handy,” Akar told Turkish newspaper Hürriyet.
Ankara and Athens have for decades been at odds over a string of issues, including sea boundaries. The latest bout of tensions between Turkey and Greece was sparked by Ankara accusing Athens of arming islands in the Aegean Sea that have a demilitarised status, a claim Athens reject.
Akar went on to accuse Greece of “militarizing the islands’’ with demilitarized status, “in violation of treaties,” according to Hürriyet.
“The situation gives [Turkey] the right to self-defence and places the sovereignty of the islands in question,” the top Turkish defence official said.
“When we say this, they make a fuss that we are threatening their sovereignty,” Akar said, adding that despite Ankara’s “well-intentioned efforts, some Greek politicians continue with provocative actions and rhetoric.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly accused Greece of persecuting migrants in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, calling on the long-time rival country to respond to Ankara’s calls for cooperation, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis responded on Wednesday by telling the United Nations General Assembly that Ankara was undermining peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean region, the Greek Reporter reported.
Mitsotakis on Friday accused Turkey's leadership of undermining peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean region at time of war, but addressed Turkish people saying that Greece was not a threat to their country, Reuters reported.
"From the UN I would like to address ... the Turkish people directly: Greece poses no threat to your country. We are not your enemies, we are neighbours," it cited Mitsotakis as saying at the U.N. General Assembly. "Let us move forward."