Responding to a spike in Turkish provocations and incendiary comments, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos reiterated on Monday that there are no “gray zones” in the Aegean Sea, adding that any claims from Ankara pose a threat not just to Greek sovereignty, but also to that of the European Union.
Pavlopoulos was speaking during a visit to the southeastern Aegean island of Rhodes for events to commemorate the annexation of the Dodecanese chain of islands to Greece. The islands were ceded to Greece in full sovereignty by the Paris Peace Treaty between Italy and the Allies in April 1947.
“In the Dodecanese region there can, in terms of international law, be no ‘gray zones’ regarding the extent and content of Greek and European sovereignty,” Pavlopoulos said, adding that Greece maintained “a self-evident right” to defend the territory against any outside threat.
The president also rejected Turkish claims on the demilitarization of the Dodecanese, saying that Greece was exercising its right to legitimate defense in light of Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus and the recent spate of Turkish provocations.
He said that Turkey’s standoffish behavior also represents a challenge to the integrity of EU borders, stressing that “Greece has been, and will remain, an integral and fundamental part of the European structure.”
On Monday, a pair of Turkish F-16 fighter jets broke off from a larger formation before engaging into a mock dog fight with two Greek F-16s that had taken off from the airport of Souda, on Crete, east of Rhodes.
The air space violations came as Turkey’s Cesme hydrographic and oceanographic vessel sailed between Mt Athos and Limnos island.