Turkish chief of staff urges Greece not to make ‘miscalculations’ over Aegean
“We can conduct operations in Afrin [in northwest Syria]. We can conduct operations in [Turkey’s] east and southeast. If necessary, we will fulfill any duty that may be assigned to us in the Mediterranean and in the Aegean without hesitation. No one should make any miscalculation on this issue,” Akar was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu Agency on May 20.
Akara was speaking during a visit to the TCG Gaziantep battleship, which is taking part in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) White Strom military exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. He was accompanied by the force commanders of the land, navy and air forces.
He did not openly mention Greece but his remarks clearly referred to the country, as there has long been tension between the two NATO members over sovereignty claims on a number of disputed islets in the Aegean Sea. Akar recently held an in-person meeting with his Greek counterpart Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis at the NATO headquarters on the margins of a NATO meeting.
“What is essential is good neighborly relations, friendship and respect for human rights and international law. We are expressing our views on this issue at appropriate platforms. But we have always expressed that we are ready to use all the authorities pledged to us unfalteringly if dialogue and cooperation do not work,” Akar said.
He also underlined that Turkey is also “closely following developments in the Black Sea” and is in constant talks with the littoral countries for the security and the stability of the region.
“Our fight against the terrorism continues with determination through 365 days of the year at the same intensity and pace. Our efforts are to finish the job after neutralizing the last terrorist,” Akar stated, also referring to ongoing operations in the Idlib, Afrin and al-Bab areas of Syria.
“There are a number of land mines and improvised explosive devices in Afrin. Our works to clear Afrin of these are continuing,” he said, also praising the role of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“The FSA has shown great heroism and has achieved great successes,” he said.
“Our operation [in Afrin] has been completed without any damage given to any innocent person thanks to our sensitively crafted plans, unlike other countries present in Syria. Despite this a very serious smear campaign has been conducted [against Turkey]. To understand that smear campaign, it is sufficient to compare the situation in post-operation Afrin with post-operation Mosul, Aleppo, Raqqa and East Ghouta,” Akar said.
‘Army is strengthening after FETÖ’s removal’
The chief of staff noted that Turkey has “suffered a lot” because of the July 2016 coup attempt. The network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, widely believed to have been behind the coup attempt.
“However, after this treason we have become stronger. We see we are getting much stronger as we are cleaning the army of members of the [Fethullahist Terror Organization] FETÖ. All elements of the armed forces have fulfilled their duties heartily and with much more success compared to past performances,” Akar said.