After months of declarations from top Turkish government officials that Greece’s sovereignty over a number of its islands in the eastern Mediterranean is contingent upon Athens demilitarising them, now Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has reportedly decided that he wishes to forbid Deputy Defence Minister Nikos Hardalias from visiting the said islands without Ankara’s permission.
That constitutes a clear Turkish claim to sovereignty over the islands.
The Turkish military indeed declared that a number of Greek islands actually belong to Turkey, and the defence ministry maintained that Athens has this year already violated Turkey’s airspace over these Aegean islands and its territorial waters 953 times this year.
Turkish Vice-Admiral voices claim to series of Greek islands
In a move that is bound to severely escalate tensions, Turkish Vice-Admiral Erkan Karakous declared today that the islands of Agathonisi, Farmakonisi, Pserimos, Kinaros, and a number of others, indisputably belong to Turkey.
“Agathonisi is ours, Arkoi is ours, Farmakonisi is ours, Pserimos is ours, Levitha is ours, Kinaros is ours, the islets of Liadi are ours, Syrna is ours, the three islands are ours, Astakida is ours. Oinousses belongs to us, the island of Pasha to us, Thymaina to us and the islet of Gavatha to us. These are ours and are determined by the circumstances. There is no doubt who they belong to,” he said.
Turkey as successor to Ottoman Empire claims islands
Turkey claims that as successor to the Ottoman Empire it has sovereignty to all Aegean islands that are not mentioned by name in international treaties.
Until now, Ankara has promulgated the theory of Aegean Grey Zones, under which it claims that 152 Greek islands of the Aegean are of indeterminate sovereignty.
President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prime Minister Kyrialos Mitsotakis, and Deputy Defence Minister Nikos Hardalias, among other political officials and military officers, have repeatedly visited even very small Greek islands in the region, some of those cited by Karakous and others, symbolically underlining Greece’s unqualified sovereignty over them.
Setting the stage for an Aegean military clash
Aside from the list of islands to which Turkey lays claim, effectively setting the stage for a potential military clash in the Aegean, Ankara earlier presented a list of purported Greek violations of the Lausanne Treaty and the Treaty of Paris.
Turkey proclaimed that Greek ministers, and Deputy Defence Minister Nikos Hardalias in particular, and by extension other officials, must first obtain permission from Ankara before visiting these islands.
That effectively means that a visit by a Greek official to islands the sovereignty over which Ankara disputes could lead to a clash between the Greek and Turkish Air Forces even as a Greek aircraft is en route to an island carrying a Greek minister or military officer.
Cavusoglu claims Greece lacks legal argument for arming its islands
During a briefing in Izmir today, Turkish defence ministry spokeswoman Burcu Naliç Yokuva (photo) cited the alleged 953 Greek violations of Turkish airspace and territorial waters, 316 as she said by the Hellenic Navy, and 637 by the Hellenic Air Force.
The claim of violations is based on the specious argument that the eastern Aegean Greek islands must be demilitarised.
Izmir is the headquarters of the 130,000-strong Aegean Army, which was established in 1975, the year after the Turkish occupation of 37 percent of the Republic of Cyprus, since 2004 an EU member state, with the sole aim of staging a possible invasion of the Greek island complex, with NATO’s largest active landing force.
That, and the continuing Turkish occupation of Cyprus, are the two basic arguments that there is an absolute need for the defensive militarisation of the Greek islands of the eastern Mediterranean, which is justified under the UN charter.
Ankara says Greece lacks sound legal arguments
“The reason Greece is becoming much more aggressive is the fact that they fail to bring about a legal explanation over why they are arming the islands in the Aegean,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu asserted today.
Turkey accuses Greece of provocations, asserts its seeks good relations
“Despite Turkey’s good will approach in a spirit of good neighbourly relations and alliance [in NATO], Greece unfortunately continues to escalate tensions and to engage in insulting rhetoric and illegal actions, unleashing groundless accusations against our country,” the spokeswoman said.