Spike in tension after tit-for-tat statements by Turkish DM, Greek military chief

Thursday, 20 December 2018 11:53
UPD:11:56
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The Turkish defense minister on Wednesday warned that Ankara has "taken all necessary measures" and will not tolerate any fait accompli in the Aegean and Mediterranean, in reaction to a statement a day earlier by the Greek armed forces chief, who promised a very forceful response should Turkish military personnel land on Greek territory in the Aegean.

The last 24 hours witnessed a noteworthy spike in saber-rattling, by both sides, in the wake, however, of repeated Turkish provocations and attempts over the recent period to prevent hydrocarbon drilling in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and even threats to use military force to prevent Athens from exercising its international rights under the UN Law of the Sea Convention.

Hellenic Armed Forces General Staff chief Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis raised eyebrows on Tuesday by saying that "if the Turks land on a rock islet, we'll level it (isle)".

According to a dispatch by the correspondent of Athens-based Skai from Ankara on Wednesday, Turkish DM Hulusi Akar said "we're making all efforts to protect our 'blue land'," a reference to sea territories, borders etc.

Successive Turkish governments continue to ignore provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that apply to the Aegean, such as territorial waters and the delineation of the sea's continental shelf, let alone the more recent international legal concept of maritime exclusive economic zone. For instance, although Turkey maintains a 12-mile territorial limit in the Black Sea, the country's grand assembly voted in the 1990s to give the executive branch the right to use military force against Greece in case the latter extends its territorial limits to 12 nautical miles.

On Wednesday morning alone, two Turkish F-16s entered the Athens FIR without filing a flight plan and flew over the SE Aegean isle of Kastellorizo at an altitude of 4,000 feet. The incursion came immediately after the Greek DM, Panos Kammenos, had departed the island aboard a helicopter.

Numerous violations by Turkish warplanes were later recorded in the central part of the eastern Aegean, specifically over the Oinousses chain of small islets between Chios (Hios) and the Asia Minor coast.

Adm. Apostolakis on Tuesday, in response to a press question asking if Greece expects assistance from abroad in case of a conflict with neighboring Turkey, said:

"If it becomes necessary to fight, no one will fight beside us. Our effort is focused on not reaching this point. With the US and EU we want to ensure that the Turks will not reach this point," he added.

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