Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Monday accused Greece of hypocrisy in its acts and statements, underlining that Türkiye is aiming for peace in the Aegean while Athens is continuing provocations.
Saying that the two countries have disagreements, Akar emphasized that these have to be resolved peacefully.
“Despite all our good-willed efforts, unfortunately, our neighbor Greece continues to increase tensions through provocative actions and statements. We do everything we can to prevent this,” Akar told reporters following the National Day reception of Malaysia in the capital Ankara.
“They do everything to abuse each incident, through contorting it, influencing third parties through slander and complaining about Türkiye to them. In this regard, it would not be wrong to say that they (Greece) follow a hypocritical politics,” Akar said further.
He elaborated that while Athens was voicing its aims dialogue, it went on to complain about Türkiye with third countries at each opportunity.
The Greek government wrote letters to NATO, the European Union and the United Nations, asking them to formally condemn what they claim is an increasingly aggressive talk by Turkish officials in response to the continued Greek violations, and suggesting that tensions could escalate into open conflict.
Speaking on the recent incident in which two Greek coast guard boats harassed a ro-ro ship (cargo vessels) in international waters, Akar said: “Immediately after the incident, Greek politicians accused Türkiye of aggression. If that is not hypocrisy, then what is it?”
Akar was referring to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who said Sunday that Greece's armed forces would give a "decisive answer" in case of conflict.
He said that the Air Force Command has planned national and NATO activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean as well as education activities within the scope of mutual agreements and international law.
“Russian-made S-300s are harassing these activities, locking radars. This is a hostile attitude. This has nothing to do with allies, neighbors and previous agreements. This is unacceptable. We never leave such acts unanswered,” he said, adding that Türkiye is continuing to protect its rights and interests both in the field and on the table.
“We say peace, good neighborly relations, international law, and we want to cooperate on these issues. We want the Aegean Sea to be a sea of peace, but unfortunately we cannot find a response to this."
Also commenting on ties with Greece amid recent tensions, Çavuşoğlu said that Türkiye has "seen the insincerity of Greece on every platform."
He also called on Athens to seek Ankara's friendship, saying, "Don't trust others, you won't gain any advantage by having someone else's second-hand plane or gun. There's no need to brag just because you've set up a few bases in your country. If you want to solve problems, be sincere first, but we don't see this sincerity in Greece. We will do whatever is necessary to protect our rights and interests, to protect the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriot people."
Çavuşoğlu said that Türkiye needs to protect not only its interests but also those of Northern Cyprus. "We're doing everything to protect our rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, our continental shelf," he said.
He also vowed that Türkiye will continue its energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, calling this "our right and duty."
Türkiye, a NATO member for more than 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 a longstanding treaty, saying that such moves frustrate its good faith efforts for peace.
Çavuşoğlu said the world is going through a delicate phase. "This stage is also a disadvantage, as it deepens uncertainties. Other than global actors, the pandemic crisis first shook the world. Just as we got through the pandemic and the world becoming normal, a war started in the middle of Europe," he said.
He added that at least 60% of global conflicts are taking place close to Türkiye.
"Within the last 20 years, the Republic of Türkiye has become a very important regional and global actor. Türkiye is becoming a very important actor globally, not because it is the strongest country in the world but because we use our strength and power for peace. Because we are saying what is right and what is wrong and keeping our promises," he added.
Türkiye and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, overlapping claims over their continental shelves, maritime boundaries, airspace, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus, the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea and migrants.
Among the most recent developments that flared tensions was the harassment by two Greek coast guard boats opening fire on a cargo ship in international waters, continued pushbacks by Greek elements recorded by Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as well as the harassment of Turkish fighter jets under a NATO mission by Greece’s Russian-made S-300s.
It was reported recently that Turkish jets on a reconnaissance mission, flying in international airspace, had been harassed by the Greek defense system stationed on Crete. Athens rejects the claims.
Türkiye is planning to submit to NATO and its allies the radar logs showing how a Greek S-300 air defense system harassed Turkish F-16 jets during a mission in international airspace, sources said last week. Türkiye has also lodged a protest and demanded an explanation and investigation from Greece into an incident that was “totally in violation of international laws.”
Ankara accuses Athens of illegally militarizing Greek islands in the East Aegean and questions Greece’s sovereignty over them. There is also a dispute over the exploitation of mineral resources in the Aegean.
Since the beginning of 2022, Greek warplanes have violated Turkish airspace 256 times and harassed Turkish jets on 158 occasions. Greek coast guard boats also violated Turkish territorial waters 33 times.
Reminding that there are consultative talks as well as confidence-building measures and deconfliction talks, Akar said: “All of these stopped. We say come whenever you want or we can come to have the talks.”
On the other side, Akar said that one positive development is that some political figures, academicians, diplomats and retired military officials in Greece have been starting to see the wrong policies of Greece and voicing them
He also spoke on the notorious Lavrion camp in Greece that is often described by Turkish officials as a breeding ground for terrorists.
"They hide FETÖ, the PKK/YPG, Daesh, the DHKP-C in Lavrion; they host them. From there, they enable them to go to various countries,” the minister said.
Greece has long been accused of being a favorite hideout for terrorists from the DHKP-C and the PKK. Those fleeing Türkiye have taken shelter in refugee camps in Lavrion near Athens under the guise of asylum-seekers, especially in the 1980s. Despite the closure of Lavrion in 2013 amid pressure from Türkiye, Greece continues to be the primary destination for DHKP-C terrorists.
The spokesperson of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) also spoke on ties with Greece on Monday.
"The last time they opened fire on a ro-ro ship, let's put it clearly, this is brigandage. This can't be called an accident or unintended aggression," Ömer Çelik told reporters in Ankara after a meeting of the party's Central Decision and Executive Board.
"Greece should stop running away from the table and avoid such banditry in the field. The solutions to all problems are at the table. Türkiye is a strong diplomatic state," he said.
As a result of the internal crises of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' government, Greece is becoming distant from legitimacy and the law and acting like a rogue state, he said.
"The line on this issue needs to be drawn well, (crossing) it will not benefit anyone, especially Greece," he added.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Greece's air force received the first pair of upgraded F-16 military jets under a $1.5 billion program to modernize its fighter fleet amid increasing tensions with neighboring Türkiye.
The two F-16s presented at the Tanagra airbase northwest of Athens are the first of 83 to be refitted with advanced electronics, radar and weapons capabilities by late 2027 by Greece's Hellenic Aerospace Industry, in coordination with U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
The head of Greece's joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Constantinos Floros, said the program's successful and timely completion “is an issue of the highest national importance.”
“Any potential aggressor will have to think twice or thrice before trying their luck,” once the upgrade is completed, he said at Monday's presentation.
Following years of forced savings, Greece has embarked on a multibillion-dollar spending spree to boost its armed forces. It has bought or ordered French Rafale fighter jets and FDI frigates and plans to purchase F-35 fighters from the U.S.
The F-16s, developed in the 1970s, are the workhorse of Greece's air force. It acquired the first batch of 40 in 1989 and another 130 over the years. The latest upgrade will bring 83 planes to the Block 72 variant, the most advanced F-16 version in Europe. Another four F-16s will be upgraded by the end of this year.
Türkiye has often warned Greece against indulging in an arms race, instead offering to resolve all outstanding issues, including in the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean and the island of Cyprus, through dialogue.