Turkey says Greek military exercise on Aegean island breached international law
ISTANBULTurkey accused Greece on Feb. 3 of breaching international law by carrying out a military exercise on an island in the Aegean Sea amid an escalating row between the two NATO allies.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it was aware of Greek media reports that said Greek special forces had recently parachuted onto the island of Kos (İstanköy) and said the exercise was a breach of the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947 that banned all such training on the islands.
“An exercise toward İstanköy is an open breach of international law,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hüseyin Müftüoğlu in a statement on Feb. 3.
“We call on our neighbor Greece to refrain from unilateral actions that could trigger tensions and that are against international law. We notify that our country will not refrain from taking the necessary steps that is in line with our political and legal statuses regarding the Aegean Sea,” he said.
A Greek Defense Ministry source confirmed to Reuters that there had been a scheduled exercise at the beginning of the week involving parachutists.
“The training schedule of the Greek armed forces is not going to stop,” the source told Reuters.
Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise since a Greek court last week blocked the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers that Ankara accuses of involvement in the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016. Turkey said relations with Greece would be reviewed.
Following the Greek court order, relations continued to strain after Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, accompanied by the commanders of Turkey’s land, naval and air forces, paid a visit on Jan. 29 to the islets of Kardak, on which Turkey and Greece lay claim.
On Jan. 31, two Greek Coast Guard vessels passed the Kardak islets and entered Turkish territorial waters, after which Turkish Coast Guard vessels intervened and forced the Greek vessels to leave Turkish waters, Doğan News Agency reported.
One day later, Greece reported mass incursions by Turkish military aircraft over central and southern Aegean, which Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos termed “cowboy antics.”
On Feb. 1, Kammenos flew over the air space of the Kardak islets, located about one nautical mile from Turkey’s touristic resort district of Bodrum, to leave a wreath in the Aegean Sea in memory of three Greek soldiers who died in a helicopter accident during the 1996 crisis between the two countries over the sovereignty of the islets, which brought the two neighbors to the brink of war.
Kos is part of the Dodecanese chain of islands, which was placed under demilitarization as part of the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947 after World War Two, when Italy ceded them to Greece.