Skip to main content

Turkey files protest with Greece, US in islands row

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech following a cabinet meeting in Ankara on September 26, 2022
— Istanbul (AFP)

Ankara on Monday summoned the Greek ambassador and protested to Washington after accusing Greece of deploying US armoured vehicles on two Aegean islands near the Turkish coast.

Greece branded the move as "completely unfounded and incompatible with international law", and accused Ankara of aggressive behaviour.

Greece and Turkey, which are both part of the US-led NATO defence alliance, have feuded for years over maritime borders and energy exploration rights in the Aegean and east Mediterranean seas.

The latest escalation started when Turkish security sources shared aerial images over the weekend purportedly showing ships loaded with US armoured vehicles docking at two Greek islands, Lesbos and Samos.

The Turkish foreign ministry told the Greek envoy that Athens should "stop violations" and respect the non-military status the islands were assigned by international law, the Anadolu state news agency reported.

In a note to the US embassy in Ankara, Turkey told Washington that its "weapons should not be used in breach" of the islands' agreed status, Anadolu said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan separately accused Greece of staging "provocations" and playing "perilous games".

A Greek diplomatic source said Athens rejected Ankara's objections as "completely unfounded and incompatible with international law".

The source added that the Greek ambassador had written two letters to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to set out his country's stance in detail.

Erdogan has repeatedly accused Greece of "occupying" the Aegean islands, whose status was settled in treaties adopted after World War I.

In response, Athens accuses Turkey of conducting hundreds of illegal military sorties over the islands.

The Greek diplomatic source said Turkey had threatened its neighbour with war, accusing it of assembling a huge naval presence and violating Greece's sovereignty and airspace.

Map of the Aegean locating the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos

Greece filed a formal complaint with the European Union, NATO and the United Nations after Erdogan hinted at a possible military operation in the Aegean earlier this month.

Erdogan continued his war of words on Monday, saying Greece was not Turkey's equal and rejecting diplomatic talks.

He also vowed to defend Turkey's interests with "any means at its disposal" in the islands row.