Politics

'Greece's illegal militarization of Aegean islands could put their sovereignty in question'

Athens lobbying against Türkiye's efforts to get F-16 fighter jets from US is contrary to solidarity of NATO alliance, says Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu

Merve Aydogan   | 07.06.2022
'Greece's illegal militarization of Aegean islands could put their sovereignty in question'

ANKARA

Greece’s militarization of islands in the eastern Aegean Sea is a violation of longstanding international treaties, and the continuation of this violation calls the islands’ sovereignty into question, Türkiye’s top diplomat said Tuesday.

"The sovereignty of the islands will be questioned if (Greece) does not end its violation," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara alongside his North Macedonian counterpart Bujar Osmani.

Türkiye is resolved to discuss and question the sovereignty of those islands if Greece does not end its violations, Cavusoglu said.

Also decrying Athens’ lobbying against Türkiye’s efforts to get F-16 jets from the US, Cavusoglu said this move is against the solidarity of the NATO alliance, which both countries are members of.

Saying that the actions of Greece came as no surprise, Cavusoglu said Athens and Ankara have "many differences" and that the two countries' relations are eased "from time to time," citing a revival of "exploratory talks on issues that have long resisted solution."

He stressed that the islands in the eastern Aegean – one of the issues that stand between the two countries – were given to Greece as part of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris on the condition that they were kept demilitarized.

"This status of the islands has been violated by Greece," he stressed, urging Athens to abide by international law.

Rebuffing Greece's "accusations and baseless allegations of expansionist policy" of Türkiye, Cavusoglu said: "Since they (Greece) cannot respond to our questions about the status of the islands, they opt for demagogic rhetoric."

Cavusoglu voiced hopes that Greece "comes around and acts in a principled matter."

Türkiye in recent months has stepped up criticism of Greece stationing troops on islands in the eastern Aegean, near the Turkish coast and in many cases visible from shore.

These islands were required to be demilitarized under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris, so any troops or weapons on the islands are strictly forbidden.

Relations with North Macedonia

Noting that developments "unfolding in the Balkans concern" Türkiye and that "there is a rising level of fragility," Cavusoglu said that "North Macedonia is undertaking huge responsibilities" in order to tackle issues in its region.

Announcing an upcoming visit to Serbia, he said: "Then we will continue with Croatia, followed later on with Bosnia and Herzegovina."

On Türkiye-North Macedonia bilateral trade volume, Cavusoglu said last year it rose 42% to $772 million, adding that this year it will reach a level of nearly $900 million.

"Thus, we agreed to increase it to $1 billion next year at the latest, but we believe that we can increase to $2 billion within the next five years," he added.

Cavusoglu and Osmani further addressed cooperation in the fields of energy and the defense industry, saying that Ankara would like to improve energy cooperation with North Macedonia.

On defense industry cooperation, Cavusoglu said the Turkish defense industry has progressed "remarkably" over the last 10 years and will work “to meet the requirements and necessities of North Macedonia” for defense products."

For his part, Osmani said economic ties between the two countries should be strengthened, adding that they have the will to do so.

"The closeness of our peoples to each other of course strengthens our economic cooperation," he added.

Osmani further voiced support for Türkiye's position and efforts in the Russia-Ukraine war, saying the best way to end the war would only come as a result of working together.

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