Greece’s recent aggressive rhetoric and actions against Turkey are “abnormal,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Monday adding that Athens is “up to something” against Ankara amid a fivefold surge in their defense budget.
“They are in a calculation against Turkey in their own way. There is a fivefold increase in the armament budget. What we are saying is that this is small for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and Turkey, but a lot for defense,” Akar told Anadolu Agency’s (AA) editorial desk.
Akar commented on moves by Athens against Ankara on the F-16 deal, saying they amounted to an “unfortunate attempt” by Greece and that the country’s attitude was “abnormal.”
Emphasizing the necessity of dialogue to overcome issues standing between Ankara and Athens, Akar said Turkey was never a threat to its allies.
“In all official and informal meetings, we call on Greece to meet and talk within the basis of international law … We urge dialogue but they don’t come. We want to talk and meet because we’re strong,” he added.
Calling on Greece to act in line with “good neighborly relations,” Akar said Turkey’s principles of good neighborly relations and “readiness to share the riches of international law” should not be taken as weakness. “We are in favor of the law,” he said.
He further stressed that issues between Turkey and Greece should not reflect on the European Union and NATO’s relations with Ankara.
Neighbors and NATO allies Turkey and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, overlapping claims over their continental shelves, maritime boundaries, air space, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus, the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea and migrants.
Turkey, in recent months, has stepped up criticism of Greece stationing troops on islands in the eastern Aegean, near the Turkish coast and, in many cases, visible from the shore. These islands were required to be demilitarized under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris, so any troops or weapons on the islands are strictly forbidden.
Also, Turkey and Greece have traded accusations of airspace violations in recent months. Turkey is demanding that Greece demilitarize its eastern islands, maintaining the action is required under 20th-century treaties that ceded sovereignty of the islands to Greece. Turkish authorities say the Greeks have stationed troops on Aegean islands in violation of the peace treaties that followed World War I and World War II.
Despite saying that it has no intention of entering into an arms race with its neighbor and NATO ally Turkey, Greece also continues to carry out an ambitious rearmament program for its armed forces. Greece’s burgeoning arms program is designed to counter the protection of Turkish interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has often warned Greece against indulging in an arms race, offering to resolve all outstanding issues, including in the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean and the island of Cyprus, through dialogue.
Tensions flared again when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him, accusing him of trying to block sales of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey during a visit to the United States.
The defense chief also stressed the importance of a potential deal with the U.S. on the sale of F-16 fighter jets, saying that a technical meeting between Turkish and American officials would be held on Aug. 15.
“If our air force is strong, not only will the Turkish air force will be strong but NATO will also be strong,” he noted.
Voicing hopes that the deal would yield “positive” results, Akar said that if not, the world “has expanded and so we have our options. A counter option could be made.”
After its unfair suspension from the F-35 program, Turkey has sought to broker a deal with the U.S. for the sale of F-16s and upgrade kits for earlier models of the fighter jet.
An approximately $6 billion deal would include the sale of 40 newly built F-16V fighter jets and modernization kits for 80 F-16 C/D models that the Air Forces Command have in their inventory.
In early May, reports appeared on some U.S. news outlets claiming that several lawmakers were in favor of the deal.
Asserting that Turkey will resolutely continue with its counterterrorism operations, the minister said that a total of 2,226 terrorists had been “neutralized” this year alone.
Turkish authorities use “neutralize” to imply the terrorists in question surrendered, were killed or captured.
Turkey’s only aim is to protect its citizens’ security and has “no eye” on any other country’s territory, Akar said.
He added that the sole targets of Turkey’s counterterrorism efforts are terrorists and pointed to the endeavors of its forces to ensure the security of local ethnic groups.
Akar also highlighted Turkey’s fight against the Daesh terrorist group in both northern Sy