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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued a harsh warning to Greece, saying the country would pay a “heavy price” if it continued to “harass” Turkish planes.
Erdogan spoke during a rally in the Black Sea region, telling those in attendance to “look at history.”
“If you go further, you will pay a heavy price,” he said of Greece. “We have one thing to say to Greece: Remember Izmir,” he added, referring to the city Turkey “liberated” from Greece in 1922 as part of its war of independence, according to state-run outlet Anadolu Agency.
“When the time comes, we will do what is necessary,” he continued. “As we say, all of a sudden, we can come overnight.”
Erdogan’s comments may have come as a response to a remark from Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, who in June claimed that Turkey was “aware” of the “heavy cost” that Turkey faced in military engagements with Athens.
“It is our capabilities that deter the other side from daring a military engagement, because they know the heavy cost that they would be forced to pay,” he told the Manifesto newspaper. “Our armed forces are at all times vigilant, fully ready and decisive.”
Turkey has accused Greece of stationing troops on islands in the Aegean in violation of peace treaties between the NATO neighbors.
“Your occupation of the islands does not bind us,” Erdogan said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in June indicated that his country would challenge any Greek claims over the islands if they continued stationing troops throughout the region, the AFP reported.
But Panagiotopolous insisted that Greece has not cut off “channels of communication,” but noted that “dialogue is not consistent with aggressive rhetoric and provocative behavior.”
“The Turkish president needs to understand that … [Greece] will not cut corners in the defense of its sovereign rights,” the minister said.