Turkey to counter Greek militarization in Aegean Sea: Defense Minister
Turkey's Defense Minister says Turkish armed forces have taken all necessary precautions and are ready to oppose any provocations of the Greek Cypriot side.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday that the Turkish air force and navy have been instructed to join forces in countering the deployment of Greek armored vehicles on the neutral Aegean Islands.
During a speech at the National Defense University in Ankara, Akar stressed that Turkey refuses to give in to Greece either on the ground or at the negotiation table.
"The Turkish navy and air force have been given clear instructions in this regard. Regardless of who is behind them [Greece], we are determined to do everything necessary," Akar said, as quoted by Turkish news agency Anadolu.
But the Turkish Minister added that Ankara still seeks to settle all the differences with Greece in the Aegean region peacefully.
"We strive to ensure that the wealth of the Aegean Sea is fairly distributed within the framework of international law and good neighborly relations," Akar said.
The top Turkish diplomat pointed out that the Turkish armed forces have taken all necessary precautions and are ready to oppose "any provocations of the Greek Cypriot side" amid Washington's recent decision to lift the arms embargo on the Greek administration of southern Cyprus.
Turkey and Greece have been trading accusations of provocative actions in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas, where they have conflicting military and energy interests.
Most recently, Turkey has accused its NATO ally of militarizing neutral Aegean islands close to its shores.
Turkey issues warnings to Greece, sends letter of protest to the US
In late September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will resort to all possible means in order to protect and safeguard its territorial rights in light of Greece's continued provocations and violations of Turkey's territorial waters and airspace in the Aegean sea.
Erdogan said Turkey is paying close attention to Greece's provocative actions and noted that Greece is being "dragged into a swamp with military buildups." He added that Greece is far from reaching Turkey's political, economic, and military level and that Athen's military buildup will amount to nothing.
"We will not hesitate to utilize all available means to protect our country's rights and interests against Greece, whereby necessary," the Turkish President said. "Greek officials, who exploit policies for political gain, will be held accountable," he added.
Anadolu had reported that the Greek Ambassador to Ankara was summoned by the Turkish Foreign Ministry over Greece's continued violations and militarization in the Aegean islands.
Ankara also issued a diplomatic note of protest to the US regarding the supply of American weapons to the Greeks, according to Anadolu. It called on the US to respect the status of Eastern Aegean islands and to prevent the militarization of the Aegean islands.
Turkish authorities accused the Greeks of establishing a military presence in the islands of the Aegean Sea in violation, according to them, of two peace treaties signed after World Wars I and II.
Under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris, these islands were required to be demilitarized, hence any troops or weapons on the islands are absolutely prohibited.
Read more: Turkey captures images of Greek military vehicles on Aegean sea: video