The US Department of State told Turkey on Tuesday that the sovereignty of the Greek islands is not in dispute.
Following a barrage of threatening statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Department of State spokesman said according to the Athens Macedonia News Agency (AMNA):
The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and protected. Greece’s sovereignty over these islands is not disputed. We call on all parties to refrain from rhetoric and actions that could further escalate tensions.
Turkey claims Greece is violating international agreements by militarizing islands in the Aegean Sea. “You occupying the islands doesn’t bind us,” Erdogan said on Saturday. “When the time comes, we’ll do what’s necessary. As we say, we may come down suddenly one night.”
He added: “Look at history, if you go further, the price will be heavy.”
“We have one sentence to Greece: Don’t forget Izmir,” Erdogan said, in a reference to a crushing defeat of occupying Greek forces in the western city by the Turkish military in 1922.
The US says Turkey’s threats against Greece are “unhelpful”
The American official also called Erdogan’s warnings to Greece over sea disputes “unhelpful” and urged the two NATO allies to settle differences diplomatically.
“At a time when Russia has again invaded a sovereign European state, statements that could raise tensions between NATO allies are particularly unhelpful,” a State Department spokesperson said when asked about Erdogan’s remarks.
“The United States continues to encourage our NATO allies to work together to maintain peace and security in the region, and to resolve differences diplomatically,” the spokesperson said.
Washington’s intervention comes a day after the European Union voiced concern over what it called “hostile remarks” by Turkey against Greece.
“The continuous hostile remarks by the political leadership of Turkey against Greece…raise serious concerns and fully contradict much-needed de-escalation efforts in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Peter Stano, spokesman for European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, said in a statement.
“The EU reiterates its expectation from Turkey to seriously work on de-escalating tensions in a sustainable way in the interest of regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU member states,” Stano added.
Greece rejects “neo-Ottoman bravado”
Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias said Greece “rejects [Turkey’s] neo-Ottoman bravado,” in joint statements with his visiting French counterpart Catherine Colonna in Athens on Tuesday.
The Greek minister added that statements coming out of Turkey are “unacceptable, unheard-of and condemnable,” and he pointed out that “we are neither afraid nor intimidated.”
Asked about Tuesday’s statement by Erdogan, who said that Turkey will “descend suddenly one night” on Greek islands, said during an official visit to Bosnia, Dendias said that the Turkish side has been making increasingly outrageous and unacceptable statements in recent days and reiterated that Greece always acts on the basis of International Law and the Law of the Sea.
Dendias went on to say that “anyone who dreams of attacks and conquests should think it over more than once,” as “we are more than self-sufficient in our ability to defend our homeland, our territorial independence and our integrity.”
Speaking on the issue, Colonna underlined that France “has always stood and will continue standing on Greece’s side,” and that her country is closely following all developments in this matter.