Greece aggravating tensions in region: Turkish Defense Minister
The Turkish Defense Minister says Greece insists on continuing "provocative" actions and statements that increase tensions.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Sunday accused Greece of continuing provocative actions aimed at escalating tensions in the region.
On Friday, Akar warned Greece about serious consequences if it arms islands in the Aegean Sea and extends its territorial waters.
According to media reports, Greece's maritime boundaries could double to 12 miles off Crete. However, Turkey said it will not allow Greece's waters to expand by even one mile into the Aegean Sea.
"Although we extend a hand of peace, Greece insists on continuing its provocative actions and statements that constantly increase tensions," Akar said, as quoted by the TRT Haber broadcaster.
On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Athens against expanding its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea. Cavusoglu went on to recall how this was a casus belli - an act justifying war - for Turkey, adding that Ankara's 1995 decision on the issue was unambiguous and was still in force.
Ankara has previously stated that it would consider the expansion of Greek waters as a reason for war.
Turkey believes that if Greece extends its territorial waters, which are now six miles, to 12 miles, it would practically cut off Turkish waters and deprive Turkey of access to international waters, effectively trapping it in its territorial waters.
In several instances since 2020, Ankara and Athens have been head-to-head and faced the risk of armed conflict over territorial claims in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Greek-Turkish divide in Cyprus, and the delimitation of maritime borders.
Turkey repeatedly accused Greece of deploying weapons to the Aegean islands in the Eastern Mediterranean in violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. In August 2022, Greece used S-300 air defense systems to lock a Turkish F-16 performing a reconnaissance mission near Rhodes.
In October, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz dismissed Turkish claims to sovereignty over Greek islands in his visit to Athens. Scholz considered that it was "not acceptable" for a NATO member to question the sovereignty of another member. The German Chancellor also slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his senior officials for making "more or less veiled military threats" to Greece in recent months.
Greece and Turkey have been at odds for years over maritime borders and energy exploration rights in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas. Erdogan accused Greece of "occupying" the Aegean islands, whose status was determined by treaties signed following World War I. Simultaneously, Athens accused Turkey of carrying out hundreds of illegal military sorties over the islands.
However, it was revealed in late December that Germany hosted a secret meeting in Belgium between top foreign policy advisors to the leaders of Greece and Turkey to discuss the normalization of ties between the two countries after years of tension.
On December 16, Greece's Anna-Maria Bura met with Turkey's Ibrahim Kali, in the presence of Jens Ploetner, the German Chancellor's foreign policy advisor. The meeting was held in the German mission to the European Union without any preconditions from both sides, according to Greek media.