UPDATES WITH MORE QUOTES BY TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER; REVISES HEADLINE
By Merve Aydogan
ANKARA (AA) - Calling on Greece to abide by international law, Türkiye’s foreign minister on Friday told Athens that "hiding behind the EU will do you no good."
Greece’s response to a Turkish letter on the Aegean disputes Ankara sent to the UN, NATO, Brussels, and EU member state leaders earlier this month was "weak" and lacked "legal arguments," Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Türkiye's southwestern Mugla province.
Türkiye sent the letter after months of provocative actions and rhetoric by Greece in the region, with Türkiye stressing negotiations based on international law to find fair solutions to the disputes.
"We told them to not to put third parties between us. This was our agreement," Cavusoglu said, citing Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' visit to the US this summer and complaining about Türkiye, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said violated their consensus to seek bilateral solutions.
Cavusoglu emphasized that Ankara has made repeated efforts to resolve issues through diplomacy.
Stressing that it would be a mistake for Athens to try to "hide behind the EU," Cavusoglu lashed out against the bloc’s biased stance, saying: "They are not helping reach a solution to disputes."
Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, has complained of repeated provocative actions and rhetoric by Greece in the region in recent months, including arming islands near Turkish shores that are demilitarized under treaty, saying that such moves frustrate its good faith and efforts for peace.
Mentioning how Türkiye is obliged to protect the rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Turkish Cypriots as a guarantor country, Cavusoglu vowed to continue protecting the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.
- US moves violate traditional ‘balance’
Cavusoglu also said the latest move by the US to lift its arms embargo from the Greek Cypriot administration was a "reward" for its "leaning away from Russia" amid the Ukraine war.
"They (Greek Cypriot administration) may have cooperated with the US against money laundering, but does the reward have to be arms? It could've been something else, like monetary support," he added.
He stressed the move has disrupted the US’ balanced policy on the island and made it completely pro-Greek Cypriot.
"For years, the US had a balanced policy on the island. It was following a balanced policy between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and also Türkiye and Greece. Now, for the last two years, it has been moving away from this balanced policy," Cavusoglu said.
Pledging to do whatever is necessary amid the latest US moves, he stressed that Türkiye will respond with concrete steps.
On Sept. 16, the US State Department announced the lifting of the arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot administration.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the move, saying it is “in contradiction to the principle of equality of the two sides on the island, and will further strengthen the Greek Cypriot side’s intransigence, will negatively affect the efforts to resettle the Cyprus issue, and will lead to an arms race on the island, harming peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation of the island led to Türkiye’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded in 1983.
It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Türkiye, Greece, and the UK.
The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year that Greek Cypriots thwarted a UN plan to end the longstanding dispute.