ANKARA, Turkey – Greece should abstain from testing Turkey’s patience in the face of provocations, including a threat to extend its territorial waters into the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s defence minister warned on Saturday.
Talking to a group of reporters in Ankara, Hulusi Akar also said that Turkey wants to resolve disputes with its neighbour and NATO member Greece through conversation and turn the Aegean into a “sea of friendship. “, but accused Athens of going ahead with what he called provocative. actions, including the militarization of islands close to mainland Turkey, in violation of international agreements.
“They (Greece) shouldn’t be mistaken and think it’s the right time (to extend territorial waters to) 12 miles,” Akar said. “They should not test us under any circumstances, and should not embark on such an adventure. I hope they don’t make such a mistake.
He added: “May both sides enjoy the riches, may the Turkish people and the Greek people live happily and prosperously. “
Greece and Turkey have long disagreed over a range of disputes, including land rights in the Aegean Sea and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tensions exploded in the summer of 2020 over exploratory drilling rights in areas of the Mediterranean where Greece and Cyprus claim their own exclusive economic zones.
Greece says it maintains its right to extend its territorial waters from six to 12 current nautical miles around its Aegean islands. Turkey has long said it would view the move – which would block its own access to the Aegean Sea – as a cause of war. In January, the Greek parliament voted to extend its waters along its west coast on the other side of the country to 12 miles.
Athens recently called on Turkey to withdraw its decision to consider an extension of territorial waters as a cause of war if it is to normalize relations. He also urged Ankara to end what he also calls provocations in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Commenting on the NATO alliance, Akar lamented what he called an “open or secret” arms embargo imposed by some NATO allies on Turkey. He said these countries were “weakening” the partnership by not selling defence components to Turkey.
The US has imposed sanctions on some Turkish defence officials and kicked Turkey out of the US-led F-35 fighter program after Turkey bought the long-range missile defence system S-400 from Russia, fearing that Russian technology could endanger the safety of fighter jets.
Canada cancelled licenses to export drone technology to Turkey in April last year after discovering the equipment had been used by Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh five months earlier. Arms control advocates had claimed the drones used imaging and targeting systems produced by a Canadian company. In October 2019, Canada joined a handful of European countries, including France, the United Kingdom and Germany, in halting arms exports after Ankara launched an operation in the northeast. of Syria against Kurdish fighters.