Turkey urges Greece to demilitarize Aegean islands

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Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday called on Greece to withdraw its armed forces from Aegean islands, warning that his country would challenge the status of the islands if it fails to demilitarize them.

Cavusoglu said during a joint news conference with his North Macedonian counterpart, that Greece has been building a military presence on Aegean islands in violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Paris Treaty.

He said the islands were ceded to Greece on condition that they be kept demilitarized.

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The minister’s comments come amid a new escalation in tensions between the NATO members 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.

Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would stop talking to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, voicing displeasure at comments the Greek leader made during a recent US trip, including suggestions that Congress should block Turkey’s acquisition of F-16 fighter jets.

Greece argues that Turkey has deliberately misinterpreted the treaties regarding armed forces on its eastern islands and says it has legal grounds to defend itself following hostile actions by Ankara including a long-standing threat of war if it extends its territorial waters.

Cavusoglu said Ankara had sent two letters to the United Nations on the issue of the militarized islands and called on Greece to respond to the letters.

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