Turkey’s Foreign Minister on Wednesday openly disputed the sovereignty of several Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, claiming that their legal status has not been established in a definite way.
Mevlut Cavusoglu asserted in a televised interview on CNN Turk “there are islands whose sovereignty has not been established” either in the Treaty of Lausanne or in the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.
This, apparently, is the reason Ankara is calling for “exploratory talks to resolve these issues” and to avoid a repetition of a crisis like the one over the islets of Imia (which are known as “Kardak” in Turkish).
The Foreign Minister was referring to the 1996 incident when the two NATO allies came to the brink of war in a dispute over the ownership of the uninhabited islets.
Athens on Thursday reacted to the statements saying that “the legal status of the Aegean and of [the Aegean] islands is clearly determined by international treaties and there is no room for dispute.”
“Greece has chosen the path of international legality,” the ministry said, as it urged Ankara to follow the same path.
Turkey’s top diplomat was speaking as his country’s armed forces have recently been steeply escalating the number of their violations of Greece’s airspace and maritime borders.
According to official data, released recently by the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, the number of violations of Greek national airspace by Turkish military aircraft reached 4,811 in 2019, the largest number in one single calendar year since 1987.
The number of violations of the country’s national waters by Turkish Navy warships has been steadily increasing since 2010. The total of such violations in 2010 was 133; by 2015 the number had increased to 299, and in 2019 it reached the staggering figure of 2,032.
New provocations from Turkish President Erdogan
In the meantime, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been escalating his crescendo of provocative statements, recently announcing seismic research in areas inside or near Greece’s continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone.
Erdogan even declared that Turkey is ready to begin granting companies licenses for exploration and drilling in areas in the eastern Mediterranean this year, in compliance with the widely disparaged and illegal maritime agreement his government signed with the Libyan leader in Tripoli.
The Turkish premier noted that his country’s research vessel ”Oruc Reis” will soon begin seismic activities in the region; however, he did not specify the ship’s exact whereabouts.
Greece has repeatedly reiterated at every level that if Turkey dares to challenge Athens’ sovereign rights, the country will respond with any and all necessary actions.