ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s foreign minister has lashed out at Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to hit Athens with ballistic missiles.
“It is unacceptable and universally condemnable for threats of a missile attack against Greece to be made by an allied country, a NATO member,” Nikos Dendias said Monday, arriving in Brussels for a European Union foreign affairs meeting.
“North Korean attitudes cannot and must not enter the North Atlantic Alliance,” he said.
Speaking during a town hall meeting with youths in the northern Turkish city of Samsun late Sunday, Erdogan said Turkey has begun making its own short-range ballistic missiles called Tayfun, which, he said, was “frightening the Greeks.”
”(The Greeks) say ‘it can hit Athens,’ Erdogan said. “Of course it will. If you don’t stay calm, if you try to buy things from the United States and other places (to arm) the islands, a country like Turkey … has to do something. ”
Relations between the NATO allies and neighbors have long been strained, with the two sides divided over a series of issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. The two have come to the brink of war three times in the past half-century.
But Turkey has been ratcheting up the rhetoric in recent months, with Turkish government officials openly disputing the sovereignty of inhabited Greek islands and Erdogan saying Turkish troops could land in Greece “suddenly one night”. Even so, a threat of a missile strike is highly unusual.
Last week, Turkey accused Greece of violating international agreements by conducting a military exercise in the Aegean. Turkey insists the deployment of soldiers or weapons on eastern Aegean Greek islands near its coast violates the islands’ non-military status according to international law. Greece counters that it needs to defend them against a potential attack from Turkey, noting that Ankara maintains a sizable military force on the western Turkish coast, just across from the islands.
Commenting on the military exercise last Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that “Greece needs to renounce its violation. Either it steps back on the issue and abides by the agreement or we’ll do whatever is necessary.”
He added: “Those who sow the wind reap the storm. If you do not want peace, we will do what is necessary. One night, suddenly.”
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