A further escalation in provocative rhetoric by Ankara this week prompted a terse response from Athens on Thursday.
“Knowing international law means, above all, respecting it and not violating it,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in an unusually brief written statement. It was issued in response to a statement by its Turkish counterpart the day before criticizing remarks by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos earlier in the week.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Pavlopoulos of “a lack of knowledge on the fundamental principles of international law.”
The Turkish ministry also claimed that Greece “attempts to hide behind an imaginary Turkish threat which has no relationship to reality whatsoever and interprets UN Charter arbitrarily.”
Ankara also rebuffed Greek accusations of escalating tensions in the Aegean, instead pointing to “provocative actions and rhetoric” by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, though without naming him.
Ankara’s lengthy statement followed comments by Pavlopoulos earlier this week rejecting Turkish references to “gray zones” in the Aegean Sea and declaring that such claims pose a threat not just to Greek sovereignty but also to that of the European Union.
The war of words comes amid a spike in Turkish violations of Greek air space and territorial waters that authorities fear will escalate further ahead of a constitutional referendum in Turkey in April.
In a related development, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that for stalled Cyprus peace talks to come unstuck, Greek Cypriots would have to fix their “mistake” of legislating the commemoration of a 1950 referendum that called for Cypriot union with Greece.
Yildirim said Greek Cypriots believe they are “the sole owners” of the island but should accept Turkish Cypriots as equals in a federation.
“This attitude that aims to skew the truth clearly cannot move the negotiations forward,” Yildirim said after talks with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in Nicosia. Yildirim was to address a rally later in Nicosia in support of a “yes” vote in the Turkish referendum.