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Turkey accuses Greece of abusing NATO mission, insists on islands demilitarization

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson accused Greece of attempting to abuse NATO’s mission for migrants on the Aegean Sea aimed at drawing international organizations into the dispute on sovereignty rights in the region. In an long, rather endless statement with twisted arguments, the Turkish Foreign Ministry claimed that Greek islands should be demilitarized and therefore not be visited by ships participating in the mission of the North Atlantic Alliance.

“Greece’s claims that the NATO activity in the Aegean Sea has rendered Turkey’s legitimate position that is fully in accordance with international law “de facto invalid” are in vain,” the ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a written statement.

The NATO Activity is being carried out to support the efforts to stem irregular migration due to humanitarian concerns, upon Turkey’s consent, he noted. He was referring to a NATO mission for preventing illegal migration in the Aegean Sea, whose rules of engagement are determined on concerns of Turkey as some islands in the Aegean Sea are demilitarized by international treaties.

Recalling that the Aegean disputes between Greece and Turkey are being addressed through bilateral channels, the attempts of Greece to “abuse” international organizations, including NATO, and draw them into these disputes with the aim of justifying her national positions are not new, he said.

The Eastern Aegean islands were put under demilitarized status by virtue of several international agreements, including the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and the Treaty of Paris of 1947, Aksoy said, noting that these treaties prohibit the militarization of the Eastern Aegean islands.

“They are in force, and thus, are legally binding for Greece, imposing legal responsibilities on this country,” he said.

NATO civilian and military authorities are bound by the alliance’s policy of refraining from involvement in bilateral disputes between allies and have faithfully been acting on this basis, and this is also the case for the NATO Activity in the Aegean Sea, Aksoy added.

He recalled that at the time when this activity was initiated, all allies, including Greece, agreed that the NATO Activity in the Aegean Sea would be carried out in a manner that does not prejudice NATO allies’ national policies.

“In line with this collective understanding, it was agreed that the military vessels operating in the Aegean Sea under the NATO Activity would refrain from visiting the Aegean islands under demilitarized status according to international law, including with the aim of refueling or port visits. Moreover, these vessels may only operate in the Aegean Sea on the basis of diplomatic clearances issued concurrently by Turkey and Greece for specified areas at sea,” the spokesperson stated.

Much to our knowledge it was Turkey that attempted to misuse the NATO in its conflicts with its neighbors , urged it to protect  the rights of Turkish occupied Cypriots and Ankara’s interests.

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