Turkey says seeks end to disputes with Greece during big navy exercise
« Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey is seeking to resolve its disputes with neighbour Greece through peaceful means » says Ahval News.
Akar, a former chief of staff, spoke during a military exercise spanning the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea involving 122 ships and 41 aircraft. It was named ‘Blue Homeland’, after a controversial military doctrine that lays claim to territories off Turkey’s coast controlled by Greece.
Turkey is expecting to resolve problems through dialogue, but Athens is acting a little too slowly and Turkey expects it to be a more active, Akar said. He drew particular attention to Greece’s “illegal” militarisation of islands close to Turkey.
« We’re calling on our neighbour to hold this hand of friendship that we sincerely extend, » Akar said in a speech to army officers during the exercise on Thursday.
Diplomatic relations between Greece and Turkey reached the lowest point in decades in 2020 after Turkey sent seismic research vessel Oruç Reis, escorted by warships, into waters claimed by Greece to search for natural gas. Greece responded by deploying its navy. Resulting political and military tensions prompted the EU to temporarily impose sanctions against senior Turkish energy ministry officials.
« We respect international law in our relations with Greece and we always favour good neighbourly relations,” Akar said. But the “provocative actions and rhetoric” of some Greek officials have a negative effect on bilateral relations and they need to be more careful, Akar said.
“Such statements accusing and defaming Turkey are of no benefit to anyone,” he said.
The NATO members are also at odds over the ethnically divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, the status of Aegean islands and the movement of migrants across the Aegean Sea.
Greece has militarised 16 out of 23 of its Aegean islands in flagrant violation of international agreements and international law, Akar said.
« No one has the right to have a say in Turkey’s purely defensive efforts while militarising these islands, in violation of the international agreements, » he said.
« Turkey is not a threat to anyone. Turkey is an effective, reliable and strong ally. But despite all our good intentions, we do not let anyone violate our rights and laws in any way ».
Ahval News, April 22, 2022