Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Greece to stop its alleged military buildup in the Aegean islands, threatening its neighbor and fellow NATO ally with a “heavy price” that it might end up paying.
“Your occupying the islands does not bind us. When the time, the hour, comes, we will do what is necessary,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday in northern Samsun province.
The Aegean islands, once ruled by the Ottoman Empire, were given to Greece under 1923 and 1947 treaties. Ankara has repeatedly accused Athens of pursuing a military buildup on the islands, insisting that Greek sovereignty over them was conditional on their demilitarized status. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, however, has dismissed Turkish attempts to question the sovereignty over the islands as “absurd.”
Erdogan pointed to the history of conflicts between the two countries, namely to the 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish war. The war resulted in a major victory for Ankara, while Athens had to cede the territories it received through partition of the crumbled Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic that emerged in its place.