Straight on the heels of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s trip to Greece, his prime minister is publicly challenging Greek sovereignty over over 100 rock islets.
The theory of “grey zones” or disputed sovereignty in the Aegean was fully articulated during and after the 1996 Imia crisis. Turkish commandos had seized one of the rock islets and Greece was forced to remove its flag from Imia as part of a US brokered deal.
Responding to opposition CHP party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who attacked Erdogan for handing over 18 islands to Greece, presumably because he did not directly raise a sovereignty issue, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim declard that, “During our time in power, we did not allow even a stone to be taken from the Aegean islands.”
“The first clash over the Aegean islands was the Imia crisis, and Turkey at that time clearly demonstrated its position on this issue,” he said.
‘Grey zones’ in the Aegean
Gildirim told parliament, during a debate on the budget, that there is a “grey status” regarding 132 rock islets in the Aegean.
“We shall do whatever is required so as not to harm in the least Turkey’s rights and interests. Turkey is not a country that will leave anything unsanswered. Let everyone know that,” the Turkish PM said.
‘Why not change the Lausanne Treaty?’
Yildirim also reiterated Erdogan’s controversial comments, which were dismissed by both the US State Department and Berlin, that the Treaty of Lausanne is in need of revision or updating. He said Erdogan’s remarks concerned the rights of “compatriots” in Thrace.
“Is it a mistake to tell Greece, which is not implementing the treaty, that we should change it?” Yildirim asked the opposition. “This [demand] signals a sense of national responsibility,” he said.