Greece escalating tensions in Aegean, says Turkish FM

Turkey’s Foreign Minister has accused neighbouring Greece of escalating tensions in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas while underlining that Turkey has always stood by Greece during their difficult times, Greek Kathimerini reported.

The claims from Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu came amid reports in Greek media of Turkish vessels harassing Greek fishermen after Athens’ decision to pause confidence-building measures over the detention of two Greek soldiers in Turkey, who were released on Tuesday pending trial.

Political and military tensions between the two Aegean neighbours have escalated sharply since December 2017, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was time to renegotiate an early 20th century treaty that marked out the two countries’ common borders. 

“In their difficult days, we are always by their side. But in the Aegean and the Mediterranean, they are again increasing tension. They do bizarre things which are not acceptable. Don’t we all want the Eastern Mediterranean to become a region of peace and prosperity?” Kathimerini quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying during the 10th annual Ambassadors’ Conference in capital Ankara.

The Turkish foreign minister went on to blame Nicosia for the impasse on the divided island of Cyprus.

“In order to reach a solution in Cyprus, a new process must be launched. Greek Cypriots do not want to cooperate. And this we saw last year. We saw it in Geneva, we saw it in Crans-Montana,”he said, adding “Greece is no different.”

Cyprus has been split between a Greek Cypriot administration in the south, recognised internationally as the government of the whole island, and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot government in the north recognised by Turkey, following a Turkish invasion of the northern third of Cyprus in 1974.