The United States said on Monday that it regrets an “escalation of provocative statements,” urging NATO allies “to avoid threats and provocative rhetoric” in response to a question about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent warning that Turkey could hit Athens with missiles if Greece continues to arm the Aegean islands.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price was asked during a press briefing in Washington on Monday if he had any comment on Erdoğan’s threats against Greece.
Erdoğan, who was speaking in the Black Sea province of Samsun on Sunday, said Greece is uneasy about the development of the Turkish national defense industry since Turkey has even begun to manufacture its own missiles.
“This production certainly scares the Greeks. When you say ‘Tayfun,’ they get scared. They say, ‘It may hit Athens.’ It certainly will do so,” Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey will not remain idle if Greece continues to arm the Aegean islands with weapons procured from the United States and elsewhere.
Tayfun, which is Turkish for “typhoon,” is a short-range ballistic missile developed by Turkey. The missile, which was test-fired in October over the Black Sea, hit a target at a distance of about 560 kilometers, a range more than double that of the current missiles in Turkey’s arsenal.
Price said they “regret this escalation of provocative statements. It is especially regrettable at a time when unity and cooperation is needed most among our own NATO Allies.”
“All that an escalation of rhetoric will do is to is to raise tensions and to distract us from the unity of purpose, the unity of purpose that we need to confront any number of challenges, not the least of which, of course, is the threat that the Alliance potentially faces from Russia, and of course the ongoing active threat that the people of Ukraine face from Russian aggression,” Price said.
Turkey and Greece are bitter rivals involved in contentious geographic disputes, including exploration for natural gas off the divided island of Cyprus and the Dodecanese — a group of islands off the Turkish coast that were ceded to Greece by Italy following World War II. They mobilized their navies and warplanes in opposition to one another in the Mediterranean in 2020.
Erdoğan has lately accused Greece of “occupying” Aegean islands and equipping them with weapons and aircraft purchased from the United States.
In response, Athens accuses Turkey of conducting hundreds of illegal military sorties over the islands.
In September, the United States said Greek sovereignty was not in doubt after Turkey lodged a protest over the deployment of Greek armored vehicles on the islands of Lesbos and Samos.