Turkey angers Greece with territorial claim and flag stunt
Greek Minister of Defence Evangelos Apostolakis has condemned his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, who allegedly claimed that Cyprus and the Aegean Sea ”lie within Turkey’s territorial waters”.
Apostolakis said: ”Although we are in a phase where we are struggling to find ways to defuse tension, [Ankara] surprised us with something new.”
The remarks were ”not based on reason”, Apostolakis said.
When international law and treaties were questioned, ”we have to be concerned”, the minister said. ”I do not think that these statements can be taken seriously. [The Turks] has to get serious and watch what they say. They shouldn’t shoot off fireworks just to make an impression.”
The remarks followed a summit in Jerusalem between Greek, Greek-Cypriot and Israeli leaders and hawkish US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The meeting agreed upon the construction of the EastMed pipeline to connect Israel with Cyprus, Greece and Italy to transfer natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to the EU. Turkey is determined to stop Cyprus exploiting large natural gas reserves off its coast.
Ankara says blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, which it does not recognise, lie within Turkey’s continental shelf. Turkey in February last year blocked exploration by Italy’s Eni in block 3.
Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, nor therefore the latter’s jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone.
In December 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wanted to renegotiate an early 20th-century treaty marking the maritime boundaries of Turkey and Cyprus.
A picture of Turkish naval divers holding a Turkish flag under the sea in Crete’s Souda Bay has sparked anger in Greece, media has reported.
The Turkish Defence Ministry tweeted four photos of an Underwater Defence team deactivating mines and holding a Turkish flag.
“Our minehunter vessel TCG Akçakoca visited the Souda Harbour in Crete as part of its attendance to the Ariadne-19 exercise hosted by Greece,” the tweet said.
A Nato account briefly retweeted the picture.
“Greece’s Ministry of Defence said the move from Turkey was a ‘blunt’ provocation and demanded the image be removed by Nato, which is currently investigating why the image was retweeted in the first place,” Greekcitytimes.com reported.
“An under-sea photo showing two Turkish frogmen posing with a Turkish flag in a sea area north of the Greek island of Crete was taken down from the Twitter account of the Nato Allied Maritime Command on March 20 after protests lodged by the Hellenic Navy at the prompting of … Apostolakis,” Ekathimerini reported.
Nato retweeted another post by the Turkish Defence Ministry showing a Turkish frigate working with the French navy.
The exercise hosted by Greece was carried out between March 14 and 21.
An earlier provocative flag. The giant Greek-Cypriot flag painted to overlook Nicosia. Picture credit: Wikimedia