Greece’s ambassador to Turkey was called to latter country’s foreign ministry in Ankara on Monday, ostensibly to receive the Erdogan government’s grumbling over what the latter claims are “violations on the islands”.

“Islands” in this case are Greek territory in the eastern Aegean, and specifically Lesvos and Samos.

The development was reported by the Turkish national news agency Anadolu, which was also the source of two photographs showing a Hellenic Navy tank carrier unloading armored personnel vehicles on the two isles. The photographs were ostensibly shot by a Turkish UAV and found their way to Anadolu to publication.

The latest provocation by the opinion poll-trailing Erdogan government evokes its opprobrium over the fact that Greece has fielded military forces and equipment on the islands, in the face of consistent threats and saber-rattling by opposing Turkey, a NATO ally, on paper at least.

The most prominent threats cited by Athens are daily violations of airspace in the Aegean, over-flights of territory, and infringements of FIR rules by Turkish warplanes, in tandem with what the former calls an “instrumentalization” or “weaponization” of illegal migrants flows by the Turkish state. Long-standing threats extend to the 1970s, when Turkey created and continues to field an army corps equipped with landing craft in western Anatolia, a formation that exists outside NATO planning. A couple of decades later, in 1996, the Turkish grand assembly voted to allow a government in power the right to declare war (casus belli) in case Athens exercised its right – under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – to expand territorial rights to 12 nautical miles. Turkey, a perennial EU candidate country, has neither signed, ratified or recognizes, in selected cases, UNCLOS.

The anger out of Ankara, often enunciated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself, now includes the United States. The specific armored vehicles are part of the latest batch of US military aid to Greece, which, along with the greater presence of American forces in the latter, has infuriated the increasingly authoritarian and revanchist Erdogan government.

According to reports in the evening, the Turkish side also complained to American diplomats over the incident, i.e. Greek military equipment sent to Greek territory.

On its part, the Mitsotakis government again dismissed the latest war-mongering emanating from Ankara, pointing directly to verifiable instances of airspace violations, over-flights and FIR violations.

Athens flatly rejected the earlier demarche delivered to Greek Amb. Christodoulos Lazaris, referring to completely baseless criticism; one that is not compatible with International Law.

The latest round of nationalist-tinged assertions over “violations” revolves around what Erdogan and his associates now assert are certain Greek islands with a “demilitarized” status, which in the case of Lesvos and Samos emanates from the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, and specifically Article 13.

The specific article states:

“With a view to ensuring the maintenance of peace, the Greek Government undertakes to observe the following restrictions in the islands of Mytilene (Lesvos), Chios, Samos and Nikaria:

(I) No naval base and no fortification will be established in the said islands.

(2) Greek military aircraft will be forbidden to fly over the territory of the Anatolian coast. Reciprocally, the Turkish Government will forbid their military aircraft to fly over the said islands.

(3) The Greek military forces in the said islands will be limited to the normal contingent called up for military service, which can be trained on the spot, as well as to a force of gendarmerie and police in proportion to the force of gendarmerie and police existing in the whole of the Greek territory.”

Athens, conversely, maintains that no naval bases or fortifications have been built; that no Greek aircraft flyover Turkish territory, and that national guard contingents on the isles are strictly defensive in nature – and in response to substantial Turkish threats and a military buildup.

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