Further toughening its stance toward Greece, Ankara accused Athens again Thursday of militarizing the islands facing its coast and linking this issue with their territorial borders, while it also challenged Greece’s sovereignty in the Aegean again.
“Greece militarizes the islands that should be demilitarized,” said Turkish Defense Ministry spokeswoman Pinar Kara.
“Its illegal behavior is also reflected in the fact that it tries to appropriate the islands and islets whose sovereignty has not been given to Greece by agreements or conditions,” she added, claiming that the islands of the Eastern Aegean, and Kastellorizo which is located in the Mediterranean, have a demilitarization regime that was determined in accordance with the 1913 treaties of Lausanne and Paris by the decision of six states.
“The sovereignty of these islands has been transferred to Greece, on the condition of their demilitarization and non-military use,” Kara insisted.
Ankara also urged Athens not to conduct any research activities in the Aegean, as Kara claimed that Greece, “in violation of the 1976 Bern Protocol, issued Navtex, Notmar and Notam notices for research in the Aegean. This shows how it behaves.”
However, Greece’s cooperation with Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and other countries in the wider region has been seen as a source of concern in Turkey, with its Defense Ministry claiming that Greece “is trying to create a front against Turkey and this is done through cooperation with third countries and agreements with them.”
Meanwhile, in a tweet, US State Department spokesman Ned Price urged Turkey to open the Halki Theological Seminary, eliciting Ankara’s dismay.
“Fifty years ago Turkey’s nationalization of higher education caused the Halki Seminary to close. We continue to urge the government of Turkey to respect the universal human right of religious freedom and allow Halki Seminary to freely train Orthodox clergy,” Price said.
In response, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said that “for the past 50 years the Greek Orthodox (Ecumenical) Patriarchate has refused to open the Theological School within a theological school of the University of Istanbul, in accordance with Turkish law.”