Turkish Defense Minister urges dialogue with Greece amid escalating tensions
KOCAELİTurkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık on Feb. 5 called on Greece to solve the problems between the two neighbors through dialogue amid escalating tensions between the two NATO allies.
Işık said the neighboring countries should work together to solve their problems, while adding that “provocative statements” of his Greek counterpart, Panos Kammenos, must end.
“Of course there are problems that haven’t been solved until today. But the solution to these problems are not to challenge, but to continue exploratory talks regarding the problems,” said Işık during a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) meeting in Turkey’s northwestern province of Kocaeli on Feb. 5.
“This is not in favor of Greece,” said Işık, referring to Kammenos’ “provocative statements.”
“In recent days, we have sadly been watching the Greek Defense Minister who made extremely unfounded and irresponsible statements. His statements and actions are irresponsible and provocative, therefore, I condemn him,” he said.
“Turkey and Greece need to solve their regional problems by sitting down and talking. As Turkey, this is our attitude. Therefore we do not accept anyone making irresponsible and provocative statements,” he added.
Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise since a Greek court late January 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.
Hours after flying over the air space of the Kardak islets, located about one nautical mile from Turkey’s touristic resort district of Bodrum, on Feb. 1 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, Kammenos said Turkish aircrafts had made incursions inside the Greek airspace, which he referred to as “cowboy antics.”
On Jan. 29, Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and his top brass paid a visit to the Kardak islets.
On Jan. 31, two Greek Coast Guard vessels passed the islets and entered Turkish territorial waters, after which Turkish Coast Guard vessels intervened and forced the Greek vessels to leave Turkish waters.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also released a statement late Feb. 3, over Kammenos’ Turkey remarks. “We condemn his baseless, inappropriate as well as unethical expressions against our country and our President and return them to the owner,” he said.
“We call on the Greek authorities once more to duly act with responsibility and refrain from the statements that would undermine the atmosphere of cooperation that we are trying to achieve between the two countries,” the ministry’s statement read.
On Feb. 2, some Greek media outlets reported that Greek paratroopers landed on the Kos Island, which the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Feb. 3 it violated the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 that banned all such training on the islands.