Turkish defence minister urges Greece to stop arming Aegean islands
Turkey's defence minister Hulusi Akar on Saturday accused Greece of arming Aegean islands, which he said were placed under demilitarised status, Anadolu Agency reported.
Akar called on his Greek counterpart to take necessary steps to end arming Aegean islands and to abide international law.
"The demilitarised status of these islands should be protected and continued,” Akar told to Anadolu.
Akar’s comments came before a planned meeting between military delegations of both countries, whose date has yet to be announced, as a part of the agenda set by two neighbours’ foreign ministers last month to de-escalate tensions.
Greek Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Alexandros Gennimatas rejected the call by Akar, stating that Greece is exercising its rights according to international law, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported.
“The raising of such issues by the Turkish side, particularly when it threatens with war a sovereign country, in the case it exercises a legitimate sovereign right stemming from international law, does not rise to the level or relations that Greece, as a democratic and European country, wishes to foster with all its neighbouring countries,” it quoted Gennimatas as saying.
The Greek foreign ministry says Turkey is the only country that refers to and demands the demilitarisation of the “islands in the Eastern Aegean”.
“The demilitarisation of the Greek islands of Limnos and Samothrace along with the demilitarisation of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus, and the Turkish Imbros (Gokceada), Tenedos (Bozcaada) and Rabbit Islands (Tavşan), was originally provided for in the 1923 Lausanne Treaty on the Straits. This was annulled by the 1936 Montreux Treaty, which, as it categorically stated in its preamble, replaced in its entirety the aforementioned Lausanne Treaty,” the Greek foreign ministry says.
Greece’s right to militarise Limnos and Samothrace was recognised by Turkey by an official letter sent in 1936 by the Turkish Ambassador in Athens at the time, according to Greek foreign ministry.
The ministry says the provisions of the Paris Peace Treaty between Italy and the Allies in April 1947 had provided for the demilitarisation of the Dodecanese islands in south-eastern Aegean, noting that Turkey is not a signatory of this treaty and that the demilitarised status lost its raison d’être with the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
A decades-long dispute between Turkey and Greece over the uninhabited Aegean islets brought the two countries to the brink of armed conflict in 1996.
Turkey and Greece are also at odds over the maritime borders in the Aegean, as Athens says it has the right to extend its territorial waters under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Turkey is not a part of the convention and sees any unilateral move by Greece as a cause of war.