Greek PM vows to stand up to ‘bully’ Turkey
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has attended the naming ceremony of the new naval warship, Vlahakos, in a show of strength after Turkish threats over the Aegean.
There is tension with Turkey over Greece’s buildup of naval strength around Samos, about 1.3km from the Turkish mainland, and near the tourist island of Lesbos.
The demilitarised status of the islands was established under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
Mitsotakis, stressing that strengthening the armed forces was a priority for his right-of-centre government, told the media at the ceremony: “Whoever violates borders is punished. There is no place for imperial visions in the 21st century and would-be bullies have no place.”
Mitsotakis told the UN general assembly last month that Greece was not an enemy of Turkey, which was using “the language of an aggressor”.
Turkey claims Greece is sending military vehicles to the demilitarised Aegean islands while Greece claims Turkey is conducted illegal naval exercises near its territory.
Last Monday, Ankara lodged a protest with the US and Greece over the “unlawful deployment” of armoured vehicles on Aegean “islands with non-military status”.
Berk Esen of Istanbul’s Sabanci University said Greek armoured vehicles on the islands are nothing new and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rhetoric could be due to domestic politics.
“Both sides, I think, are trying to escalate the conflict in order to mobilise the national public opinion so that they can win elections. I think this is true for Turkey as much as it is true for Greece,” the political scientist said.
Esen said he thought both Erdogan and Mitsotakis would use sabre-rattling language without resorting to any clashes.
In mid-September, Erdogan claimed Greece was “occupying” de-militarised Aegean islands.
Erdogan said the Turkish military could “arrive overnight” and “do whatever is necessary” to enforce the demilitarised status.
European Commission spokesman Peter Stano called on Turkey to respect international law and the sovereignty of European Union member states.
On Turkey, he said, “I can only reiterate the solidarity of the EU with Greece.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price called on the two Nato allies to “remain focused on the threats that are a challenge to all of us”, posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Turkish mainland from the Greek island of Samos. Picture credit: Flickr