Turkey warns Greece to demilitarize Aegean islands

The Aegean Islands tension between Turkey and Greece escalated once again. Erdogan warned Greece to demilitarized islands in the Aegean Sea.

Turkey and Greece had launched a new dialogue in early 2021 following a year-long tension in the eastern Mediterranean due to overlapping continental shelf claims. The process brought about a common effort to promote the economic and trade ties in the context of positive agenda. However, a quarrel over the demilitarized status of some of the Greek islands near the Turkish coast has heightened the tension again recently.

The Dodecanese islands were ceded to Italy, along with other Aegean islands, after the 1912 Tripoli War. The islands would be given back to the Ottoman Empire. However, the surrender of the islands to the Ottoman Empire never took place.

Following the Second World War, the islands were given to Greece with the Treaty of Paris signed in 1947. The islands were left in non-military status on the condition that Greece would not be armed. However, Greece has made 23 non-military islands into its arsenal.

Based on the London, Lausanne and Paris Agreements regarding the islands in the Aegean Sea, Turkey argues that the islands should "remain in a non-military status in the past and in the future". Turkey, which argues that "sovereignty rights are open to discussion" on the grounds that Greece is arming the islands, also sent two letters to the United Nations (UN) to comply with international agreements.

In these letters, as in the statements of both President Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, a call was made to "take the necessary steps to comply with the agreements".

ERDOĞAN WARNED ATHENS

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 9 warned Greece not to dream or take actions that will make it regret in the future.

“We warn Greece once more to avoid dreams, statements and actions that will lead to regret, as it did a century ago, and to return to its senses,” Erdoğan tweeted in three languages: Turkish, Greek and English.

"We leave it to the international community to decide what it means to demand 40,000 kilometers (24,850 miles) of maritime jurisdiction for Meis island, which is less than 2 kilometers from our country's mainland but more than 600 kilometers from Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean."

“Turkey will not relinquish its rights in the Aegean and will not refrain from using the powers granted to it by international agreements for the armament of the islands when necessary,” he stated.

Erdoğan also touched upon the problems of the Turkish minority in Greece's Western Thrace region, he added: "Greece still continues to put pressure on the Turkish minorities in the western Thrace, Rhodes and Kos, ignoring international agreements, universal human rights and the values of the European Union of which it is a member."

Greece and Turkey are NATO allies but have a history of disputes over a range of issues, including mineral exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and rival claims in the Aegean Sea. Greece has stated that the islands, within striking distance of a large Turkish landing fleet, cannot be left defenseless and have been garrisoned for decades.

The two countries came close to war three times in the past half-century, the last being in 1996 over the ownership of an uninhabited eastern Aegean islet.