As Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras discussed the refugee crisis and EU-Turkish relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a scheduled phone conversation on Thursday, Ankara ratcheted up the rhetoric, with its Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claiming that the “Imia islets are Turkish land.”
His remarks drew a stern response from the Greek Foreign Ministry, which described them as “irresponsible and provocative.”
“Turkey’s escalating rhetoric” was also discussed during the conversation between, Tsipras and Merkel, the premier’s office said in a statement.
A dispute over Greece’s Imia islets in the eastern Aegean almost led to a war between the two countries in 1996. “Greece’s sovereignty over its islands in the Aegean, including Imia, is indisputable and enshrined in international law,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Defense Minister Panos Kammenos also sent a clear message to Turkey and others questioning Greece’s territorial integrity during a visit to a military outpost near the Albanian border, using far less restrained language.
In comments at the Molydoskepastos outpost, which he visited with the commander of the General Chiefs of Staff Vasileios Tellidis, Kammenos said he wanted to “send a message and a response to all those who dare to question international treaties and international law and make provocative statements.”
“If Erdogan wants to abolish the Treaty of Lausanne, then we’ll return to the Treaty of Sevres,” Kammenos said, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and accused Ankara of “trying to fuel tensions.”
Kammenos added that Turkey’s “total enfeeblement” after a failed coup in July and its “constant losses” in Syria were leading its leaders to “stupid statements.”
He also lashed out at Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and the latter’s “historically inaccurate” statements.
Greece “will not accept such provocations,” Kammenos declared, saying he would stay the night at the outpost to underline the “fortified presence” of the Greek military.
Turkey’s provocations in recent days have not only been verbal as there have been frequent violations of Greek air space over the Aegean. On Thursday two Turkish F-16s violated Greek air space off the Aegean islet of Psarra, leading to two dogfights with Greek aircraft.
Greek diplomatic sources on Thursday attributed the spike in Turkish aggression to the insecurity of the Turkish administration following a failed coup in July.