Turkey files protest with Greece, US in a row of islands

Ankara on Monday summoned the Greek ambassador and protested in Washington after accusing Greece of stationing US armored vehicles on two Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast.

Greece branded the move as “completely unfounded and incompatible with international law” and accused Ankara of aggressive behavior.

Greece and Turkey, both part of the US-led NATO defense alliance, have been at odds for years over maritime borders and energy exploration rights in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.

The latest escalation began when Turkish security sources shared aerial photos over the weekend allegedly showing ships laden with US armored vehicles docking at two Greek islands, Lesvos and Samos.

Turkey’s foreign ministry told the Greek envoy that Athens should “stop violations” and respect the non-military status accorded to the islands under international law, state-run Anadolu News Agency reported.

In a note to the US embassy in Ankara, Turkey told Washington that its “weapons should not be used in violation” of the islands’ agreed status, Anadolu said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan separately accused Greece of staging “provocations” and playing “dangerous games”.

A Greek diplomatic source said Athens had dismissed Ankara’s objections as “completely unfounded and incompatible with international law”.

The source added that the Greek ambassador had written two letters to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres detailing his country’s stance.

Erdogan has repeatedly accused Greece of “occupying” the Aegean islands, the status of which was regulated in treaties adopted after World War I.

In response, Athens accuses Turkey of conducting hundreds of illegal military operations over the islands.

The Greek diplomatic source said Turkey had threatened war with its neighbor, accusing it of building a huge naval presence and violating Greece’s sovereignty and airspace.

Greece filed a formal complaint with the European Union, NATO and the United Nations after Erdogan hinted at a possible military operation in the Aegean earlier this month.

Erdogan continued his war of words on Monday, saying Greece is not on an equal footing with Turkey and refusing diplomatic talks.

He also pledged to defend Turkey’s interests in the row of islands by “all means”.