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Mitsotakis Rejects Türkiye-Greece Talks Over Demilitarized Islands

Former Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is currently running as a candidate in the country’s upcoming elections, rejected any possibility of holding discussions with Türkiye over the status of demilitarized Aegean islands armed by Athens, while noting that there is no reason why the two neighbors must be “enemies.”

“We are not doomed to be enemies with Türkiye,” Mitsotakis said on a campaign stop on Leros, a Dodecanese island about 45 kilometers (28 miles) off Türkiye, a short ferry ride away.

“I am sending a message of friendship to our neighbor in order to resolve the one and only issue, which is none other than the delimitation of maritime zones,” he added, according to public broadcaster ERT, effectively ruling out the contentious issue of Greece’s illegal militarization of Aegean islands.

Mitsotakis, who was prime minister from 2019 until last month, is also the main contender for the top spot in elections set for June 25, with a caretaker premier now holding the seat until the polls.

In recent months, Türkiye has stepped up its criticism of Greece stationing troops on islands in the eastern Aegean, near the Turkish coast and often visible from 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 prohibited.

The former premier also said there will be no illusions, as “Greece will continue to strengthen its military capabilities.”

With Mitsotakis at the helm, Greece recently signed multiple major arms deals, including drones and missiles from Israel, Rafale jets from France, and upgrades to its F-16 fleet from the U.S.

Athens also approached Washington for the potential purchase of at least 20 F-35 stealth fighter jets, and Berlin for an update to its Leopard 2 tank fleet and purchases of Lynx armored vehicles.

Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, has complained of repeated provocative actions and rhetoric by Greece in the region, including arming islands near Turkish shores that are demilitarized under treaties, saying that such moves frustrate its good faith efforts for peace.

Athens counters that the islands, which have been garrisoned for decades and lie within close striking distance of a large Turkish landing fleet, cannot be left undefended.

Starting from the Treaty of London in 1913, the militarization of the eastern Aegean islands was restricted and their demilitarized status was confirmed with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The Lausanne pact established a political balance between the two countries by harmonizing vital interests, including those in the Aegean. The 1947 Treaty of Paris, which ceded the Dodecanese islands from Italy to Greece, also confirmed their demilitarized status.

Since the 1960s, 21 of the 23 islands with non-military status have been armed by Greece. Among the armed islands are Crete, Lemnos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Rhodes and Lesbos. Determined not to compromise on its rights and interests, Ankara says it will maintain its stance on the agenda by drawing attention to the fact that the islands, which should have non-military status, have been armed.

Besides the Lausanne and Paris agreements, Greece is acting against international law by keeping armed forces stationed in the eastern Aegean islands, including the six-state decisions of 1914 and another agreement signed in 1932.

Source: Daily Sabah