Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay, speaking on a visit to Turkish-occupied Cyprus, threatened that Ankara will dispute sovereignty over Greece’s Aegean islands if Athens does not swiftly demilitarise them, removing all defences.
Nearly 40 percent of the Republic of Cyprus has been under Turkish occupation since the July-August, 1974, Turkish invasions, which Ankara dubbed a “peace operation”. The northern part of the island was ethnically cleansed of its Greek-Cypriot population.
“The person who arms the islands of the Aegean, blatantly violating international agreements, is the prime minister of a country [Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis]. If demilitarisation of the islands is not completed as soon as possible, we shall dispute the sovereignty over the islands in the framework of international law and treaties,” Oktay declared.
Though Turkey has long been demanding that demilitarisation of the Greek islands, this is the first time that a Turkish official has demanded that it be done poste haste, signalling a significant escalation of threatening, bellicose rhetoric.
The statement also constitutes a thinly veiled threat that Ankara could conceivably land on one or more islands if Athens does not comply with its demands, as according to Turkey, if Greece’s sovereignty is not legally grounded, the islands would revert to the successor state of the Ottoman Empire.
Since the 1970s, Turkey has deployed its so-called Aegean Army, now with 130,000 active troops and a huge landing force, all along the coast of Anatolia, a stone’s throw away from the Greek islands, to which it poses a continual threat, which is indeed its purpose.
Consequently, if Greece were to demilitarise them, that would leave them wide open to attack from the patently revisionist, expansionist regime of Turkey’s authoritarian neo-Ottoman leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan’s threat to veto the NATO membership application of Sweden and Finland has led many international analysts to question whether Turkey still has a place in the Alliance.
Mitsotakis compares Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus to Ukraine, Kyrenia to Mariupol
Oktay’s inflammatory remarks were an apparent response to Mitsotakis’ statement last week, addressing the convention of Cyprus’ ruling conservative DISY party, where he said that: “Ukraine is experiencing what Cyprus did in 1974.”
Mitsotakis said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a threat for all peoples and “an overt attack that tramples over existing borders”.
He maintained that the Russia invasion “threatens to establish a model of authoritarian behavious that may be imitated by other leaders with imperial visions”.
The case of Cyprus, he noted, demonstrates the need to reverse de facto border changes established through military force and to restore the unity and sovereignty of a single state.
“Ukraine is experiencing what Cyprus did in 1974, and we must not allow Donetsk and Mariupol to become like Kyrenia [the beautiful northern port city in occupied Cyprus, named Girne by the Turks],” the PM underlined.
Oktay: All is well in Turkish-occupied Cyprus
“Last week, during the visit of the Greek prime minister to the Greek sector [the free part of EU member-state Cyprus], he compared the island, where peace prevails, with Ukraine, and insulted the peace operation [the invasion and occupation of 1974],” Oktay said.
He asserted that the problem for Athens and Nicosia is that Turkish-Cypriots “rose up” and live “freely with their land, flag, and national will”.
Turkey is the only country that recognises the breakaway state that Ankara established and financially supports in the occupied northern part of the island.