Turkey’s escalating rhetoric with regard to Greece’s sovereignty over islets in the eastern Aegean drew a stern response from the European Commission on Friday which called on Ankara “to respect the sovereignty of EU member-states over their sea and air space.”
Speaking to reporters, European Commission spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said that the EU is urging Turkey to avoid any kind of “source of friction, threat or action directed against a member-state, which damages good-neighborly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.”
On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the eastern Aegean Imia islets are “Turkish soil,” while a few days earlier the leader of the Turkish Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu urged the Turkish government to “take back” 18 islets in the Aegean Sea.
The Greek Foreign Ministry had described the comments by Cavusoglu as “irresponsible and provocative” and a violation of international law.
In response, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Huseyin Muftuoglu reaffirmed Ankara’s stance.
“Turkey’s position on her sovereignty over Kardak Rocks [the Turkish name for the Imia islets] is well known by the international community since 1996. There is no change in our policy in this regard.”
But the Greek Foreign Ministry said on Friday that “publicly repeating a legally unfounded position doesn’t make it less feeble.”
On Friday Ankara issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM), ostensibly denying Greece the right to conduct military maneuvers off 11 Greek islands including Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Kastellorizo, just a few hours after issuing a similar notice regarding Greek military maneuvers south of Kasos.
The notices relate to eastern Aegean areas used by the Hellenic Armed Forces for exercises which, Ankara says, are demilitarized zones.
On Thursday, Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos sought to send a stern message to Turkey and other countries questioning Greece’s territorial integrity, declaring during a visit to a military outpost that Greece “will not accept such provocations,” accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of making “stupid statements” and referring to Turkey’s “total enfeeblement” following a failed coup in July.
Responding to Kammenos’s comments on Friday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry described the Greek minister as “lack[ing] the capacity of assessing and expressing developments with a common sense” and called on him to “avoid similar statements and actions from now on by acting in compliance with state responsibility and seriousness.”