Greece’s military drills as well as its provocative statements are not made solely on its own, but are spurred by some powers, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chair Numan Kurtulmuş said on Monday.
“The main issue here is the discomfort felt by Turkey’s strong presence in the Mediterranean,” Kurtulmuş said at a media workshop.
Most recently, Greece and the United States held a joint military drill in the Aegean amid rising tensions with Turkey.
The drill comes a week after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that “Greece, as a whole, has turned into a U.S. military base.”
The Turkish leader was referring to United States' numerous military installations in Greece's Alexandroupoli (Dedeağaç).
The two neighbors, allies in NATO, are at odds over a number of issues such as competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, air space, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus and the status of islands in the Aegean.
Underlining that Turkey will not give up upon its rights in the region and will continue its presence, Kurtulmuş said: "Since some people are uncomfortable with Turkey's existence they express their dissatisfaction with Turkey defending its sovereign rights in the Aegean and the Mediterranean, through the support they give to Greece, as they have done for Greece all along.”
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
However, Ankara has repeatedly stressed that it is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region, including maritime disputes, through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations.
Kurtulmuş said that Turkey’s agreement with Libya emphasized that Ankara will not give up its rights on the hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On Nov. 27, 2019, the internationally recognized Libyan government signed a security cooperation agreement and demarcation of a maritime border with Turkey.
The agreement also confirmed that Turkey and Libya are maritime neighbors. The delimitation starts from Turkey’s southwestern coast of Fethiye, Marmaris and Kaş, and extends to the Derna-Tobruk-Bardia coastline of Libya.
On the other side, another reason for tensions is the migration crisis in the region.
Turkey has repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum-seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
13 irregular migrants pushed back by Greece were rescued on Monday by the Turkish coast guard off western Izmir province’s Dikili and Aydın province’s Kuşadası districts.
The rescued migrants were taken to the provincial migration directorate.
Turkey's five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees leaving Turkey for the European Union, with the Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean in a bid to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as a number of boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants aiming to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks, summary deportations and denying migrants access to asylum procedures, in violation of international law. It also accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.