Turkey ratchets up tension in the Aegean, once again

Turkey ratchets up tension in the Aegean, once again

In response to Turkish overflights over the Imia islets in the eastern Aegean on Friday and Ankara’s comments regarding a joint military exercise by Greece and Egypt on the the island of Rhodes, the Greek Foreign Ministry urged Turkey to adhere to international law in a statement. 

The overflights were conducted by a Turkish military helicopter over the Imia islets, the site of a military standoff between Greece and Turkey in 1996.

There were two flyovers at low altitude – one at 7.59 a.m. at 30 meters and the second at 9.41 a.m. at 250 meters. They were seen as a violation of diplomatic protocol as they occurred while Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu was on a tour of Muslim villages in Thrace.

“It would be good if Turkey would finally decide – and we hope it will do so – to conduct itself on the basis of international legality and the principles of good neighborly relations,” said the Foreign Ministry, adding that “like every other sovereign state, Greece considers self-evident the right to take the necessary measures for the effective defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, based on the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.” 

The Greek response came shortly after Cavusoglu completed his tour and a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement on Thursday which described the exercise on Rhodes as “a hostile act” and “a clear violation of international law.”

The Turkish statement cited one of the 1947 Paris Peace Treaties – whereby Italy ceded Rhodes to Greece – which “prohibits all types of military training activities on Rhodes Island.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said the island was ceded to Greece on the condition that it would be and remain demilitarized.

However, Athens dismissed the statement, saying the treaty had nothing to do with Turkey. “Turkey is not a signatory to, and thus derives no right from the Treaty,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

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