Athens, Monday, 27 June 2022
During a visit to Turkish-occupied Cyprus, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay said that if Athens does not immediately demilitarise and remove all defences from the Greek Aegean islands, Ankara will contest Greece's claim to sovereignty over them.
Since the Turkish invasions in July and August of 1974, which Ankara referred to as a "peace operation," about 40% of the Republic of Cyprus has been occupied by Turkey. Greek-Cypriots were ethnically exterminated from the island's northern region.
The prime minister of a nation [Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis] is the one who equips the Aegean islands, flagrantly breaking international treaties. We will contest the islands' sovereignty in accordance with international law and treaties, Oktay warned, if demilitarisation of the islands is not completed as quickly as feasible.
Although Turkey has long asked that the Greek islands be demilitarised, this is the first time that a Turkish official has made the urgent demand, denoting a substantial uptick in bellicose, threatening rhetoric.
The statement also amounts to a thinly veiled threat from Ankara that if Athens does not accede to its demands, it may land on one or more islands because, in Turkey's view, if Greece's sovereignty is not recognised by international law, the islands will revert to the successor state of the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey has been stationing its so-called Aegean Army, which currently has 130,000 active personnel and a sizable landing force, along the coast of Anatolia since the 1970s, not far from the Greek islands, to which it consistently poses a danger, as is the case with the Aegean Army.
Therefore, if Greece demilitarised them, that would leave them vulnerable to attack from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey's autocratic neo-Ottoman state, whose policies are blatantly revisionist and expansionist.
Many international analysts have questioned whether Turkey still has a place in the Alliance in light of Erdogan's threat to block Sweden and Finland's application to join NATO.
Kyrenia's takeover by Turkey is likened by Mitsotakis to Mariupol's in Ukraine.
Oktay's incendiary comments appeared to be in response to Mitsotakis' remarks from last week, when he remarked that Ukraine was going through what Cyprus went through in 1974 when speaking at the convention of Cyprus' conservative DISY party.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia, according to Mitsotakis, poses a threat to all peoples and is "an overt attack that tramples over existing borders."
For him, the invasion by Russia "threatens to build a paradigm of authoritarian behaviour that may be replicated by other leaders with imperial visions."
He pointed out that the case of Cyprus shows the necessity of undoing de facto boundary modifications imposed by military force and restoring the unity and sovereignty of a single state.
The PM emphasised that "Ukraine is going through what Cyprus went through in 1974, and we must not let Donetsk and Mariupol turn into Kyrenia [the lovely northern port city in occupied Cyprus, called Girne by the Turks]".
The situation in Turkish-occupied Cyprus is good, Oktay
"Last week, during the visit of the Greek prime minister to the Greek sector [the free part of EU member-state Cyprus], he ridiculed the peace operation [the invasion and occupation of 1974] and contrasted the island, where peace prevails, with Ukraine," Oktay added.
He claimed that Turkish Cypriots "rise up" and live "freely with their land, flag, and national will," which is an issue for Athens and Nicosia.
The only nation that acknowledges the breakaway state that Ankara created and provides financial assistance for in the island's occupied north is Turkey.
(Report by: The Decision Maker – International Relations editors)