Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s Minister of Defence, visited Turkish island Antifellos and called for Greece to demilitarise 18 neighbouring islands. It comes after Greek troops were spotted mobilising on Kastellorizo, a short distance from Antifellos, and other islands in response to Turkey’s ships using contested waters to search for oil. Both countries have accused the other of breaking international law and have been embroiled in conflict over maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Mr Akar claimed Greece’s increased military presence on the islands is “violation of international agreements and increases tensions” and stressed a desire to see the territory dispute resolved.
He added while visiting Antifellos: “An area of 40,000 kilometers is granted to Greece for Kastellorizo and this is not acceptable to us.
“We call on everyone to have sense. This is not how problems are solved.”
The Turkish minister’s comments came as Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou visited Kastellorizo to mark independence celebrations, which provoked Turkey.
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During his visit to Kastellorizo, Mr Sakellaropoulou hit out at Turkey for “mounting pressure” on Greece due to their actions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
He said to reporters: “We are going through a difficult and dangerous period.
“The Turkish leadership… is undermining the peaceful coexistence that was built over many decades by Greeks and Turks, who saw the sea between them not as an impenetrable frontier but as a passage of communication.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also refused to demilitarise the islands, issuing a categorical Oxi, meaning no, response.
Mr Mitsotakis also said he was open to meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He added: “Of course I can meet with the Turkish President and I am not against such a possibility.”
But he also warned the EU will always be able to hit Turkey with a “list of sanctions”.
Despite the threat, Mr Mitsotakis insisted Greece wants to de-escalate the conflict, and said: “Greece is ready to start a new round of contacts with Turkey”
Turkey also savaged Greece for its massive “robust” arms deal with France, claiming it “ignores” the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
Mr Mitsotakis said Greece would acquire 18 Rafale jets, four multi-purpose frigates and four navy helicopters.
He also announced Greece is recruiting 15,000 new troops and pouring extra resources into the national arms industry and cyber-attack defence.
In a brutal attack on Emmanuel Macron over the deal, Mr Akar said: “It’s a fact that what France is doing is for commercial purposes.
“It wants to strengthen its economy by equipping Greece, but … there has never been a result from the work being done under Macron’s leadership and his policies have gone bankrupt.”