Turkey has warned Greece not to make the mistake to extend its territorial waters from six to 12 nautical miles, calling for peaceful dialogue.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar spoke to a group of journalists in a year-end press conference in Ankara on Saturday, saying that Turkey wants the Aegean to be a “sea of friendship”, according to a Hurriyet Daily News.
However, Akar said, Athens is continuing its provocative actions by threatening to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles.
“I hope they won’t make a mistake and think of extending the territorial waters to 12 miles… They should not test us in any way, and should not embark on such an adventure,” he said.
A long dispute between Turkey and Greece
For a long time Turkey and Greece have been at odds over a series of disputes, including territorial waters in the Aegean and over oil and gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greece claims that it has the right to extend its territorial waters from current six to 12 miles in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Turkey, on the other hand, says that such a move – which would block its own access to the Aegean – would be a cause for war, as the Turkish Parliament decided in 1995.
The dispute flared in the summer of 2020 over exploratory rights, as Greece and Cyprus claim their own exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean, areas in which Turkey claims it has rights as well.
“There is a status quo in the Aegean Sea. You have 6-mile territorial waters, be grateful for it. What we say is both sides should benefit from the richness and live in peace,” Akar said.
Turkey and Greece are NATO allies. However, but the Turkish defense minister claims that Greece is creating new alliances with some NATO countries at the expense of the deterioration of the allied principle of collective defense.
Akar said that Turkey is subject to an “open or covert” arms embargo by some NATO allies. He said those countries were “weakening” the alliance by not selling defense components to Ankara.
“We are allies with Greece at NATO. They are making agreements despite this. An alliance within an alliance… This only weakens NATO. Why are you doing all these while there is NATO?” he asked.
At the same time, Greece is continuing to procure expensive arms, Akar said, asking, “Against whom is this?”
Turkey and Cyprus
The defense minister said that he is willing to resolve the disputes between Turkey and Greece in a peaceful way, but at the same time protect its rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Likewise, Akar said, as a guarantor country, Ankara will also protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.
However, Turkey has repeatedly violated Cyprus’ EEZ by drilling and sending warships to block international drilling ships.
The European Union foreign ministers condemned Turkey’s acts in May 2020
“We condemn the fact that Turkey has not yet responded to repeated calls from the EU to stop these activities and we reiterate our call on Turkey to show restraint, to avoid such moves and to respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of Cyprus, as defined by international law,” the ministers said in a joint statement.
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