Greek DM stresses to Turkish counterpart need to maintain communication amidst Aegean tensions

Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos Hulusi Akar

Greek National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos held a brief meeting with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on the sidelines of the NATO defense ministers summit held in Brussels on Thursday.

Underlined in this meeting was the importance of maintaining open communication channels in the spirit of good neighborly relations, a Greek ministry statement said, and focusing on a positive agenda that will contribute to building a better climate and regional cooperation.

In this framework, the Greek minister stressed the importance of reducing tension.

During the discussion about NATO’s deterrence and defense provisions, Panagiotopoulos expressed the need to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank due to developments in Ukraine, according to an announcement by the Greek Ministry of National Defense.

Their meeting comes as a day earlier Greek MPs and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar had a heated exchange during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Committee, resulting in the latter leaving the meeting in an irritated mood.

Speaking at a meeting of the NATO parliamentary committee in Istanbul, Akar once again raised the issue of territorial waters and the demilitarisation of the Aegean islands.

He also accused Greece of supporting terrorism.

In fact, according to parliamentary sources, the Turkish Minister of Defence tried to highlight the Turkish accusations of alleged support of terrorists from Greece, by revoking the theory about a supposed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) training camp in Lavrio.

The Greek delegation took the floor and first MP Spilios Libanos, and head of the Greek side, replied that Greece is fighting terrorism.

They also told him that Turkey cannot claim to respect the sovereignty of countries when it has invaded Cyprus.

The Greek delegation added, referring to the Turkish policy, “you question the sovereignty of many of our islands”.

Meanwhile, Turkey must stop all threats and actions that harm good neighbourly relations and must respect the sovereignty of all EU member-states in their territorial waters and airspace, Peter Stano, European Commission spokesperson for external affairs, said on Thursday in reply to a question raised by AMNA.

Stano noted that any open issue should be dealt with peacefully, through dialogue, good faith, with full respect for international law and in accordance with the principle of good neighbourly relations.

The Commissioner also added that in terms of the relations between the EU and the EU member-states with Turkey, the EU was and is very clear: We expect Turkey to be constructive, to refrain from escalating steps, rhetoric or actions and to commit to building good neighbourly relations and not the other way around.

Otherwise, the EU and its member states would have to consider an appropriate response, he added. “This was clearly stated twice last year by European leaders and that remains our position to this day.”

In addition, Peter Stano stressed that the EU has been very clear in many cases that it is willing and ready to commit to Turkey – gradually, proportionately and reversibly to strengthen cooperation in various areas of common interest, under certain conditions, adding that Ankara should “commit to de-escalation and de-escalation must be maintained”.

READ MORE: NATO Vice President: Greece respects rule of law and seeks dialogue.