‘Im not joking!’ Erdogan warning to Greece as Aegean militarisation to ‘result in regret’

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Erdogan urged Athens to stop sending armed forces to islands with non-military status and abide by international agreements in comments likely to fuel a renewal of long-running tensions between the neighbours. The warning came in a televised speech on Thursday.

The Turkish President said: “I warn Greece to avoid dreams, acts and statements that will result in regret. Come to your senses.

“Turkey will not renounce its rights in the Aegean and will not back down from using rights that are established by international agreements when it comes to arming islands.”

Mr Erdogan’s warning comes amid a new escalation in tensions between the NATO allies that have a history of disputes over a range of issues such as mineral exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and rival claims in the Aegean Sea.

Mr Erdogan said: “We invite Greece to stop arming the islands that have non-military status and to act in accordance with international agreements.

“I’m not joking, I’m speaking seriously. This nation is determined.

“Turkey won’t give up on its rights in the Aegean, in the same way that it will not stand back from using its rights stemming from international agreement.”

Turkey alleges Greece has been building a military presence on Aegean islands – many of which lie close to Turkey’s coast – in violation of treaties that determine they must remain unarmed.

It argues the islands were ceded to Greece on the condition that they be kept demilitarised.

For its part, Greece claims Turkey has deliberately misinterpreted the treaties regarding armed forces on its eastern islands and says it has legal grounds to defend itself in the face of what it describes as “hostile actions” by Ankara.

Ankara and Athens have long been at odds over a host of issues including maritime boundaries, overlapping claims over continental shelves, airspace and the ethnically split Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

After a five-year hiatus, the two NATO members last year resumed exploratory talks to address bilateral matters and lay the groundwork for formal negotiations to begin.

However, the talks have made little progress to date, with both countries frequently trading barbs.

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Last week, Erdogan announced Turkey was halting the discussions, partly over a dispute with the Greek Prime Minister and what Ankara calls airspace violations.

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