Just a week before the resumption of the 61st round of exploratory contacts between the two countries, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Greece of “provocations” and “illegal militarization of islands,” warning that “if Athens insists on not cooperating, then the responsibility for any tensions will be on its shoulders.”
“Greece continues its provocations, takes steps that violate the demilitarization regime of the islands, constantly conducts military exercises or announces [navigational warnings] and then doesn’t carry them out,” he said during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Ankara.
Cavusoglu also reiterated Ankara’s position that the issue of the Eastern Mediterranean and the maritime zones should not be the only issues up for discussion.
“There are issues with the Aegean, territorial waters, airspace, issues of maritime jurisdiction. It is not right for [Greece] to choose an issue and declare that we are making exploratory contacts,” he stated.
He also decried recent comments by Greek Archbishop Ieronymos, who told Open TV in an interview on Saturday that “Islam is not a religion but a political party” and that the people of Islam “are the people of war.”
“We also saw the statements of the archbishop. We know the purpose of these moves. They want to provoke Turkey to take similar steps, and they will say to Europe, ‘Look, Turkey is continuing its negative steps,’ and they will ask for sanctions,” Cavusoglu said, while the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the remarks.
The fact that such a statement was made at a time when preliminary preparations are being made for the exploratory talks is of particular importance and an unfortunate step that undermines the process.
The Archdiocese of Athens later clarified that it did not mean all of Islam but its extremes.
Cavusoglu also demonstrated what was seen as an uncompromising attitude toward Brussels and Washington, stating that “we are not a country that is afraid of sanctions.”
“We are not afraid of sanctions coming from Europe or the US. If we had been afraid we would not have done what we have done so far,” he said, adding that he hoped that Greece stops the provocations and that common sense prevails so the upcoming meeting brings results.