Türkiye calls on Greece to stop militarizing Aegean islands

    REGION  06 December 2022 - 18:58

    Calling on Greece to abide by international law, Türkiye’s foreign minister on December 6 said otherwise Ankara "will do what is necessary".

    Speaking at a joint press conference with his Romanian counterpart Bogdan Aurescu in the capital Ankara, Cavusoglu said: "Either Greece takes a step back and abides by agreements, or we will do what is necessary," referring to the violation of the demilitarized status of eastern Aegean islands near the Turkish coast, Anadolu reports.

    Letters Türkiye sent to the UN laying out Ankara's legal arguments after Athens violated the islands’ demilitarized status bothered Greece, Cavusoglu said.

    Türkiye filed a complaint about Greece’s actions that violate the demilitarized status of the eastern Aegean islands through a July 2021 letter to the UN chief.

    These islands were given to Greece under the treaties of Lausanne and Paris, on the condition of disarmament, he said, adding that Greece is "directly violating these two agreements. So Greece does not want peace."

    There is a direct link between the status and sovereignty of these demilitarized islands, he said, adding that if Greece does not abandon this violation, the islands’ sovereignty will become a matter of debate. Greece is taking negative steps toward Ankara's security, he added.

    "If Athens doesn’t want peace, Ankara will do whatever is necessary," he said.

    On Greece's recent military drill on Aegean islands, he said: "Greece continues its provocations. We cannot keep quiet about it, and will continue to take the necessary steps both legally and in the field."

    Recently, Greece carried out a military drill on the Aegean island of Rhodes, just 84 kilometers (52 miles) from the Turkish coastal city of Fethiye.

    Nordic countries' bid to join NATO

    Touching on the extradition of a PKK/KCK terror group member to Türkiye by Sweden to address Ankara's legitimate security concerns paving the way for its NATO membership, he said: "The decision to extradite him to Türkiye is pleasing. But this person was not on Ankara's list. But the return of the people on the list to Türkiye and the freezing of their assets are serious demands."

    Sweden extradited PKK member Mahmut Tat to Türkiye on Friday after he was arrested on charges of being a member of the terrorist group PKK.

    Calling on Sweden to take more steps such as freezing terrorist assets and extraditing criminals to Türkiye, Cavusoglu said: "Ultimately, the Turkish parliament and our people need to be convinced these steps will be taken."

    Membership in the alliance is subject to Finland and Sweden fulfilling the requirements in the agreement they signed with Türkiye this June, he added.

    The Finnish defense minister's recent visit to Türkiye was also important as Finland has given no explanation for its failure to lift the arms embargo on Ankara, he said.

    Türkiye expects Finland to lift it, he said, adding that Ankara has fewer problems with Finland than with Sweden.

    Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia's war against Ukraine.

    But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terror groups.

    Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum in June at a NATO summit to address Ankara's legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.

    Under the memorandum, Finland and Sweden extend their full support to Türkiye countering threats to its national security. To that effect, Helsinki and Stockholm are not to provide support to the YPG/PYD terror group or the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) – the group behind the defeated 2016 coup in Türkiye.

    In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is its Syrian offshoot.

    Turkish officials have warned that Türkiye will not approve the memberships of Sweden and Finland until the memorandum is implemented.

    Unanimous consent from all 30 existing allied countries is required for a country to join NATO.

    Relations with Romania

    Praising the "significant opportunities" offered by Romania to Türkiye, Cavusoglu said the economies of both countries are growing and Romania's economic development is "truly admirable."

    Romania is Türkiye's major trading partner in the southeastern European region.

    "Of course, we decided to take our relations to a higher level and establish a high-level strategic cooperation council mechanism with Romania, and we also agreed on the document," he added.

    Soon Türkiye will welcome the Romanian prime minister and both countries’ leaders will sign a high-level strategic partnership agreement, he added.

    On the countries’ trade volume, he said: "Last year, the trade volume reached $8.5 billion, this year the increase continues and will exceed $10 billion, he said, adding that $15 billion is the target.

    The investment of some 17,000 Turkish companies in Romania has exceeded $7 billion, he said.

    For his part, Aurescu said Türkiye is Romania’s number two trading partner.

    The signing of a high-level strategic partnership agreement will enable cooperation between Ankara and Bucharest to grow and become more comprehensive, he said.

    On the landmark grain corridor agreement mediated by Türkiye and the UN this summer, Aurescu praised Ankara’s efforts.

    Based on a mutual commitment to enhance bilateral relations in every area, in 2011 the level of Türkiye-Romania relations was raised to a strategic partnership.


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