The Turkish government said Friday that a recent defense deal between Greece and France threatens to harm the NATO alliance.
France and Greece announced this week a defense and security deal worth around 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion), which includes the Greek purchase of three French warships.
The agreement came as tensions between Greece and historic regional rival Turkey have increased in recent years over gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean and waters between the two countries.
In a written statement, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic took aim at Greece’s Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, who speaking on private Skai television late Thursday, said that under the Greek-French agreement, “one country will help the other with military means if the need arises.”
Asked if the mutual defense assistance also includes maritime and land, Panagiotopoulos responded that it would be valid for “the entire sovereign area” of Greece.
Bilgic slammed what he called “Greece’s maximalist maritime jurisdiction and airspace claims” and went on to describe the pact between France and Greece as a bilateral military alliance formed against fellow NATO member Turkey “in a way that harms the NATO alliance.”
“Greece’s policy of armament, isolating and alienating Turkey is a problematic policy which will cause harm to itself and the European Union, and threaten regional peace and stability,” Bilgic said.
The spokesman added that Greece’s actions would also strengthen Turkey’s resolve to protect its rights in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.
Both countries have been at loggerheads for decades over a long series of issues, including territorial rights in the Aegean Sea, maritime and aviation boundaries, and minority rights.
Last year Greek warships shadowed Turkish naval vessels escorting survey and drill ships prospecting for gas in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights. Tensions have since eased and both countries have revived talks between high-level officials aimed at resolving issues. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the next meeting would be held in the Turkish capital, Ankara on Oct. 6.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday that he has no intention of competing against Turkey in an arms race and hopes to resolve differences with its neighbor through dialogue, but that Greece must defend its territory and sovereignty. [AP]