ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey on Monday (Aug 31) accused Greece of “piracy” and attempting to “arm the island” at the centre of their row over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
Relations between the two countries have sunk to a new low over disputed maritime rights and energy resources, with both sides staging military drills in the area.
Greece argues the waters around the island two kilometres off the Turkish coast are under Greek sovereignty and opposes any Turkish exploration nearby.
Images published in the media last week show Greek soldiers arriving on the island – known as Kastellorizo in Greece and Meis in Turkey – much to Ankara’s chagrin.
“Greece’s attempt to arm the island of Meis is an example of a new piracy,” said Mr Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party.
“It’s stupidity to direct weapons toward Turkish shores,” Mr Celik wrote on Twitter, adding: “Greece will learn we will have a strong answer to every step it takes.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Sunday pointed out that the island was “under a demilitarised status established with the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty”.
“Such provocative actions will prove useless for Greece,” the Turkish ministry said.
Greece has issued no official comment on the two neighbours’ latest dispute.
Relations between the two neighbours have been souring for months, after Turkey encouraged migrants to flee to Europe by opening its border with Greece in February, and converting some Byzantine churches into mosques this year.
Tensions are also growing between Turkey and France, another Nato ally, which has opted to throw its full weight of support behind Greece.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that Paris had adopted a “red-line policy” for Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, though he also called for dialogue.
“When we talk about sovereignty in the Mediterranean, I must be consistent in actions and words… the Turks only consider and respect that,” Mr Macron said.
But Ankara said Turkey would not be pushed around by Mr Macron.
“Those, who think to have drawn red lines against the righteous cause of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, will only face Turkey’s firm stance,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement late on Sunday.
He called for “those, who are in delusion of grandeur, to face reality”, adding: “The era of defining imperialist conceptions by drawing lines on maps is long gone.”
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