Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has asked Greece to remove military forces from 16 Aegean islands near Turkey he claims were illegally deployed, in a move that could exacerbate strains in the countries’ relations, the Middle East Monitor news website reported, citing Turkish media.
Speaking during his visit to Turkey’s major missile manufacturer Roketsan on Wednesday, Akar said, “We expect Greece to act in line with international law and the agreements it has signed.”
Tensions between the two countries have recently escalated as a result of an ongoing dispute over maritime waters and oil exploration rights in the region.
Turkey’s drilling activities are ongoing in the Aegean, eastern Mediterranean and off Cyprus and Libya, Akar said, adding that “protecting the rights of Turkish Cypriots is a national issue for us. Whatever is needed to protect those rights, Turkey has done so far and will continue doing. We will continue to secure our rights and those of our Cypriot brothers.”
In 1974, after a far-right Greek Cypriot military coup sponsored by a military junta sought to unite the island with Greece, Turkey exercised its guarantor rights to intervene on the island to protect the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.