Turkish PM claims 130 Aegean islets subject to dispute, opposes Kos exercise


Upping the ante in the war of words between Ankara and Athens over territorial rights, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters in comments published on Friday that a total of 130 islets in the Aegean "have no identity" and are therefore subject to dispute.

Yildirim also took the opportunity to refer to a recent decision by a Greek court to rule against the extradition of eight Turkish military officers who Ankara has linked to a failed coup last year, referring to a disappointing stance by Athens. 

According to Hurriyet, Yildirim wrote to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras about the extradition ruling. He said he expressed Ankara's desire for a revision of the Greek Supreme Court ruling against the extradition but got no answer.

Asked by reporters about a helicopter trip over the islets of Imia earlier this week by Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, Yildirim said Ankara responded "smiling" to "occasional excesses and provocations from the other side" and underlined the need for good neighborly relations. "Geography is fate. We cannot choose our neighbors," he said. "Turkey is not behaving in a way that will spoil relations with Greece."

As for the Aegean, he referred to "130 small and large pieces of rock in the Aegean… which have no identity and it is not clear who they belong to… The beginning of the problem in the Aegean is not new, it has a very deep history."

In a related development the Turkish Foreign Ministry objected to Greek media reports about an upcoming military exercise on Kos, claiming that the Greek island is "demilitarized" and that such an exercise would be illegal.