The Foreign Ministry has condemned the violent threats issued this week by a senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, his ministers and other Greek officials, as “unspeakable” and “alien to European political culture.”
In an interview aired on Turkish TV channel TRT on Wednesday evening, Yigit Bulut warned Athens that anyone who sets foot on the eastern Aegean islets of Imia, whose sovereignty Ankara disputes, will “feel the anger of Turkey, worse than that in Afrin” – a reference to the Kurdish-controlled enclave in Syria where Turkey has launched an air and ground offensive.
“We will break the arms and legs of any officers, of the prime minister or of any minister who dares to step onto Imia in the Aegean,” he said.
In response to a journalist’s question, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas said on Thursday that given the importance of the post he holds, Bulut should understand such comments do not help improve relations between the two countries.
Gennimatas said that the legal status of the Aegean is clear and enshrined in international law.
“We understand that it is difficult for the gentlemen in question to be studious,” he said.
Greece and Turkey came close to war over the islets in 1996 and Bulut’s comments came a few days after Defense Minister Panos Kammenos went to Imia to throw a wreath, while being monitored by Turkish patrol boats, into the sea to commemorate three Greek servicemen who died there when their helicopter crashed at the height of the crisis.
Meanwhile, in what is seen as another source of concern, the United Nations has returned a map submitted by the Turkish Cypriots during the Cyprus peace talks last year after a request by their leader Mustafa Akinci.
According to media reports, Baris Burcu, a spokesman for Akinci, said the withdrawal of the map was triggered by the announcement by Greek Cypriots that they were withdrawing all their proposals after the collapse of the talks in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana last summer.
Nicosia questioned the timing of the Turkish-Cypriot move, saying it was an “obvious attempt to interfere” in the Cyprus presidential elections, with a runoff vote scheduled for this Sunday.