GREECE issued a warning to Turkey today saying it would NOT tolerate any challenge to its territorial integrity.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said today Greece would not tolerate any move from Turkey after Turkish and Greek coastguard vessels collided close to disputed islets in the Aegean Sea.
He said: “Our message, now, tomorrow and always, is clear… Greece will not allow, accept or tolerate any challenge to its territorial integrity and its sovereign rights.”
“Greece is not a country which plays games,” Tsipras told an audience at the country’s shipping ministry.
The collision involving the two vessels occurred on Monday evening off Imia, known as Kardak in Turkish. Each side blamed the other for the incident.
Turkey and Greece, NATO allies, have been at odds over a host of issues from ethnically split Cyprus to sovereignty over airspace and overflights.
They came to the brink of war in 1996 in a sovereignty dispute over the islets, but tensions have eased since.
Noting that Greece’s eastern border is also that of the European Union, Tsipras said: “Challenges and aggressive rhetoric against the sovereign rights of an EU member state are against the EU in its entirety.”
Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise since a Greek court blocked the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers whom Ankara accuses of involvement in a failed coup against President Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.
Yesterday Turkish advisor to Erdogan said Greece was “like a fly picking a fight with a giant.”
The chief advisor told Turkey’s TRT channel that he is “in no doubt” that the US has a plan to make Greece attack Turkey while its military is engaged in Syria.
Turkey’s response, Yigit Bulut said, will be tough, adding that Greece is no match for Turkey’s might. It would be like a “fly picking a fight with a giant,” he said and warned that terrible consequences would follow for Greece.
Bulut made similar comments earlier in the month referring to Imia over which Greece and Turkey came close to war in 1996. “We will break the arms and legs of any officers, of the prime minister or of any minister who dares to step onto Imia in the Aegean,” Bulut said.
Meanwhile Turkey’s defence minister said today he had told his U.S. counterpart, Jim Mattis, that the Syrian Kurdish YPG should be removed from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the militia that Washington is backing in the fight against Islamic State.
Nurettin Canikli, in a briefing to reporters in Brussels after meeting with the U.S. Defence Secretary, also said he disputed Mattis’s characterisation of the SDF as dominated by Arabs, saying the militia was completely controlled by the YPG.