Tensions heighten between Turkey and Greece over new cycle of territorial dispute

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a press conference at the end of the G20 summit, at the convention center La Nuvola, Rome, Italy, on Oct. 31, 2021. (AFP Photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Greece to “not go too far”, accusing the country of occupying Turkey’s islands in the Aegean Sea, a new mount of tension triggered by another cycle of territorial dispute. 

Speaking during a rally held in northern Turkey’s black sea province of Samsun, Erdogan sent a red flag to Greek authorities that they are occupying islands in the Aegean Sea that have a demilitarized status and belong to Turkey.

“Turkey is prepared to do what is necessary,” said Erdogan.

The two NATO allies have mounted fresh tension over a territorial dispute, Ankara has recently accused Athens of arming the demilitarized Aegean islands – something Athens rejects, but Erdogan had not previously accused Greece of occupying them

“When the time comes, we will do what is necessary. As we say, all of a sudden, we can come overnight,” Erdogan said in the address.

Historic rivals while also being fellow members of NATO, Turkey and Greece have been at odds over issues ranging from overflights and the status of Aegean islands to maritime boundaries and hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean, as well as Cyprus division since 1974.

Greece reacted by saying it will not follow Turkey in its “outrageous daily slide” of statements and threats.

“We will inform our allies and partners on the content of the provocative statements … to make it clear who is setting dynamite to the cohesion of our alliance during a dangerous period,” Greece’s foreign ministry said.

Tukey also accused Greece over alleged airspace violations by Greek forces, Ankara has recently commented on that, saying S-300 air defense systems used by Greece had locked on to Turkish jets during a routine flight.

The new cycle of tensions between Athens and Ankara came as Turkey celebrated Victory Day on Aug. 30, a national holiday commemorating Turkish forces driving out Greek forces in 1922. On Saturday, Erdogan also called on Greece to “not forget Izmir”, pointing out the Turkish victory.

The Aegean islands were given to Greece under the 1923 and 1947 treaties on the condition that it does not arm them, according to words from Ankara.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has warned that Turkey would start questioning Greek sovereignty over the islands if Athens persisted in arming them.

While Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called upon Turkey’s position of questioning Greece’s sovereignty over the islands as “absurd”.

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