Defense Minister warns Greece not to test Turkey’s patience



ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Greece should refrain from testing Turkey’s patience in the face of provocations, including a threat to extend its territorial waters into the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s defense minister warned on Saturday.

Speaking to a group of reporters in Ankara, Hulusi Akar also said that Turkey wants to resolve disputes with its neighbor and NATO member Greece through dialogue and turn the Aegean into a “sea of ​​friendship. “, but accused Athens of going ahead with what he called provocative. actions, including the militarization of islands close to mainland Turkey, in violation of international agreements.

“They (Greece) shouldn’t be mistaken and think it’s the right time (to extend territorial waters to) 12 miles,” Akar said. “They should not test us under any circumstances, and should not embark on such an adventure. I hope they don’t make such a mistake.

He added: “May both sides enjoy the riches, may the Turkish people and the Greek people live happily and prosperously. “

Greece and Turkey have long disagreed over a range of disputes, including land rights in the Aegean Sea and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions erupted in the summer of 2020 over exploratory drilling rights in areas of the Mediterranean where Greece and Cyprus claim their own exclusive economic zone.

Greece says it maintains its right to extend its territorial waters from 6 to 12 current nautical miles around its Aegean islands. Turkey has long said it would view the move – which would block its own access to the Aegean Sea – as a cause of war. Last year, the Greek parliament voted to extend its waters along its west coast on the other side of the country to 12 miles.

Athens recently called on Turkey to revoke its decision to consider an extension of territorial waters as a cause of war if it is to normalize relations. He also urged Ankara to end what he also calls provocations in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Commenting on the NATO alliance, Akar lamented what he called an “open or secret” arms embargo imposed by some NATO allies on Turkey. He said these countries were “weakening” the alliance by not selling defense components to Turkey.

The US has imposed sanctions on some Turkish defense officials and kicked Turkey out of the US-led F-35 fighter program after Turkey bought the long-range missile defense system S-400 from Russia, fearing that Russian technology could endanger the safety of fighter jets.

Canada canceled licenses to export drone technology to Turkey in April last year after discovering the equipment had been used by Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh five months earlier. Arms control advocates had claimed the drones used imaging and targeting systems produced by a Canadian company. In October 2019, Canada joined a handful of European countries, including France, Britain and Germany, in halting arms exports after Ankara launched an operation in the northeast. of Syria against Kurdish fighters.

Akar said talks with the United States over a Turkish request to purchase F-16 fighter jets as compensation for the $ 1.4 billion spent on the F-35 program prior to its ouster are underway. Turkey is also looking to purchase kits to modernize its existing F-16 fleet.

Asked about growing tensions over Russia’s military build-up around Ukraine, Akar said Turkey wanted the dispute to be resolved with “as much calm and caution as possible.”

He added: “Our vision from the very beginning is this: we are for peace, for the solution of problems through negotiation. Let’s not increase the tension, let’s stay away from any provocative behavior … That’s why we keep telling our interlocutors that it is very important to act with caution. ”


Andrew Wilks in Istanbul contributed.

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