State Department on Turkish claims: Sovereignty over Greece's Aegean islands is not disputed

Chios State Department

The US State Department has clarified that Greece's sovereignty over the Aegean Islands are not in dispute.

This comes as Ankara, including its controlled media, are elevating propaganda that Greece does not have a legitimate sovereignty over the islands, which should in fact belong to Turkey.

In a written statement, a spokesperson for the US State Department noted that at a time when Russia has again invaded a sovereign European state, statements that could increase tensions between NATO Allies are not particularly helpful.

"The United States continues to encourage its NATO allies to work together to maintain peace and security in the region and to resolve disputes through diplomacy," the statement said and added: "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."

The statement comes as Greece rejected the diplomatic protest issued by Turkey on the militarisation of the Aegean islands of Chios and Lesvos on Monday.

Ankara summoned the Greek Ambassador in Ankara, Christodoulos Lazaris, protesting the presence of armored units on the islands.

Lazaris was called to the Turkish Foreign Ministry where Turkey demanded that Greece end the purported “violations on the islands and restore their demilitarized status,” according to the Anadolu Agency.

Turkish authorities also lodged a protest with the United States Embassy in Ankara as the vehicles in question are American-made.

The Greek ambassador was quick to reject all Turkish claims, stating that they do not comply with international law, according to diplomatic sources.

As per these sources, Lazaris pointed out that the Greek stance on the issue has been laid out in the two documents sent to the General Secretary of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres.

The ambassador is also reported to have stated that it is not Greece that threatens Turkey with a standing casus belli, nor has it concentrated a large transport fleet in the area. He noted that Turkey continues to question Greek sovereignty, with continued violations of Greek airspace and overflights over Greek territory.

Finally, the same diplomatic sources highlight that Greece fully lives up to the terms set out by the Treaty of Lausanne.

On Sunday, Turkish newspapers published a photograph taken from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that apparently shows an array of Greek military vehicles just sent to the islands of Lesvos and Chios with landing ships.

According to AA the ships in question delivered twenty-three tactical-wheeled armored vehicles to Lesbos and eighteen tactical-wheeled armored vehicles to Samos. It is noteworthy that the armored vehicles were among the vehicles sent to Alexandroupoli Port by the U.S..

Turkish security sources described these events on September 18th and September 21st as the clearest indication that Greece continues to arm the islands close to Turkey, violating their legal status, AA reports.

Ankara accuses Athens of illegally militarising Greek islands in the East Aegean and questions Greece’s sovereignty over them.

Greece has always dismissed Turkey’s claims, responding that as long as there is a Turkish military threat to these islands, they will not be demilitarised.

For Greece, memories of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus remain fresh, even forty-eight years later. The removal of the Greek Division in Cyprus in late 1967 to early 1968 by the junta left the island unprotected.

It made it very easy for Turkey to invade the country in 1974 under the pretext of protecting Turkish-Cypriots.

Greece wants to avoid a possible repeat of a Turkish invasion of one of its islands in the Eastern Aegean.

Greece absorbed the islands of Limnos, Samothrace, Lesvos, Samos, Chios, and Ikaria from the Ottoman Empire in the Balkan Wars of 1912 to 1913. It was officially awarded sovereignty over them in the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923.

Another treaty drawn up in London in 1914 had made Greek possession of the islands conditional on their demilitarisation. Turkey says that since the Lausanne Treaty makes reference to the 1914 treaty, it implies the same conditionality. Greece rejects that interpretation.

READ MORE: Turkish claims on demilitarising the Aegean Islands via Treaty of Lausanne are fake: Here's why.