Stop militarizing Aegean islands, Turkey’s Erdogan tells Greece | Political news

Ankara warns Athens it should avoid ‘acts and statements that will cause regret’ as Turkey launches military drills.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Greece to stop arming Aegean islands that have non-military status and to respect international agreements in remarks that could inflame long-running disagreements between the two countries.

“I warn Greece to avoid dreams, deeds and statements that will bring regret. Come to your senses,” Erdogan said Thursday in a televised speech delivered as he observed large-scale Turkish military exercises near the city. ‘Izmir, on the west coast of the country.

“Turkey will not give up its rights to the Aegean Sea and will not give up the use of rights established by international agreements when it comes to arming islands.”

Turkey alleges that Greece has established a military presence on the Aegean islands – many of which lie close to Turkey’s coasts – in violation of treaties which stipulate that they must remain unarmed. He argues that the islands were ceded to Greece on the condition that they remain demilitarized.

For its part, Greece claims that Turkey has deliberately misinterpreted treaties regarding armed forces on its eastern islands and claims it has legal grounds to defend itself against what it describes as “hostile actions” by ‘Ankara.

Turkey alleges that Greece has established a military presence on the Aegean islands – many of which are near the Turkish coast [File: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP]

Tensions ‘escalate’ as drills kick off

Ankara and Athens have long been at odds over a host of issues, including maritime borders, overlapping claims to continental shelves, airspace and the ethnically divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

After a five-year hiatus, the two NATO members resumed exploratory talks last year to address bilateral issues and lay the groundwork for launching formal negotiations. However, the talks have made little progress so far, with the two countries frequently exchanging barbs.

Last week, Erdogan announced that Turkey was ending talks, in part over a dispute with the Greek prime minister and what Ankara calls airspace violations.

Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar, reporting from Izmir, said the tension between the two countries was “escalating” and noted the “delicate timing” of the EFES-2022 military drills – one of the biggest drills in the world. Turkish army for years.

“There are 10,000 Turkish soldiers joining this military exercise. It is a combined military exercise, which means naval, air and land forces are involved,” Serdar said.

“And in addition to Turkish troops, there are more than 1,000 foreign military personnel from 37 countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Qatar, Azerbaijan and Pakistan. “

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan watches a military exercise near Izmir
The EFES-2022 military drills – one of the largest Turkish military drills in years – are taking place amid growing tensions between Ankara and Athens [Murat Cetinmuhurdar via Reuters]

Sharon P. Juarez