Turkish hostility against Greece worries EU

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Turkey’s hostile threats against Greece are unacceptable and must be dialled down, said EU Commission spokesperson for external affairs Peter Stano.

Stano said that threats and aggressive rhetoric from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan are “unacceptable” and need to stop.

In a written statement, Stano said he expects Turkey to work on de-escalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU Member States.

“The continuous hostile remarks by the political leadership of Turkey against Greece and the Greek people raise serious concerns and fully contradict much-needed de-escalation efforts in the Eastern Mediterranean called for in the Conclusions of the European Council from March, June 2021, and June 2022.

“The European Union has repeatedly stressed that differences need to be settled peacefully, in full respect of international law and countries’ vital and legitimate interests.

“Threats and aggressive rhetoric are unacceptable and need to stop.

“Engagement in a meaningful and sincere dialogue is indispensable for defusing tensions, promoting mutual understanding, and developing good neighbourly relations he added.

“The EU reiterates its expectation from Turkey to seriously work on de-escalating tensions in a sustainable way in the interest of regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU Member States.”

Erdogan threats

Erdogan accused Greece of occupying islands in the Aegean Sea that have a demilitarised status and said Turkey was prepared to “do what is necessary” when the time comes.

Historical 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.

Ankara has recently alleged Athens of arming the demilitarised Aegean islands – something Athens rejects, but Erdogan had not previously accused Greece of occupying them.

“You’re occupying the islands does not bind us. When the time, the hour, comes, we will do what is necessary,” Erdogan said.

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,” the foreign ministry said.

Turkey has recently been angered by what it said is harassment of its jets by Greek forces. Ankara has said that S-300 air defence systems used by Greece had locked on to Turkish jets during a routine flight.

Turkey celebrated Victory Day on August 30, a national holiday commemorating Turkish forces driving out Greek forces in 1922.

Erdogan also called on Greece to “not forget Izmir”, referring to the Turkish victory.

As Erdogan prepares for what is shaping up to be the biggest electoral challenge of his nearly 20-year rule in 2023, the president has played up achievements on the global stage.

He has also stepped up his rhetoric on foreign policy.

Ankara says the Aegean islands were given to Greece under the 1923 and 1947 treaties on the condition that it does not arm them.

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

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said Turkey’s position of questioning Greece’s sovereignty over the islands is “absurd”.