ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s foreign ministry has slammed what it called Turkish threats of war, after the Turkish foreign minister threatened to “take action” against Greece in the wake of a military exercise in the Aegean Sea.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the foreign ministry said that Turkey’s “repeated threats of war” were “completely unacceptable,” and noted that Greece respects international law and the United Nations’ Law of the Sea.
Turkey insists the deployment of soldiers or weapons on eastern Aegean Greek islands near its coast violates the islands’ non-military status according to international law. Greece counters that it needs to defend them against a potential attack from Turkey, noting that Ankara maintains a sizable military force on the western Turkish coast, just across from the islands.
On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that “Greece needs to renounce its violation. Either it steps back on the issue and abides by the agreement or we’ll do whatever is necessary.”
NATO members Turkey and Greece have decades-old disputes over an array of issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and disputes over the airspace there. The disputes have brought them to the brink of war three times in the past 50 years.
Tensions have mounted in recent years, particularly over exploratory drilling rights in areas of the Mediterranean Sea where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic zones, culminating in a naval standoff two years ago.
“Greece should not forget this,” Cavusoglu said. Those who sow the wind reap the storm. If you do not want peace, we will do what is necessary. One night, suddenly.”
Cavusoglu’s suggestion of coming suddenly one night has previously been used by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when threatening military action against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq. Erdogan made good on that threat, with Turkey conducting several military operations against the militants in recent years. Erdogan recently began using the phrase also when referring to Greece.
“The statements of Turkish officials regarding the demilitarization of the Aegean islands have been repeatedly rejected in their entirety by a series of arguments,” the Greek foreign ministry said in its statement.
“The questioning of the sovereignty of the Greek islands and the increase in tension in the Aegean, through the threats of war, have been condemned in their entirety also by the international community,” the ministry said.