EU slams Erdoğan’s threats of missile strikes on Athens

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 14, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The European Union has criticized recent remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who threatened to launch missile strikes on Athens, saying that such statements from Turkey against Greece “create serious worry,” Turkish Minute reported, citing theTurkish and Greek media outlets.

European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano commented on Erdoğan’s remarks during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

“The EU has repeatedly stressed that aggressive statements against Greece create serious worry and are in total opposition with the very necessary efforts to de-escalate in the Mediterranean,” Stano said.

Erdoğan, who was speaking in the Black Sea province of Samsun last weekend, said Greece is uneasy about the development of the Turkish national defense industry since Turkey has even begun to manufacture its own missiles.

“This production certainly scares the Greeks. When you say ‘Tayfun,’ they get scared. They say, ‘It may hit Athens.’ It certainly will do so,” Erdoğan had said, adding that Turkey will not remain idle if Greece continues to arm the Aegean islands with weapons procured from the United States and elsewhere.

Tayfun, which is Turkish for “typhoon,” is a short-range ballistic missile developed by Turkey. The missile, which was test-fired in October over the Black Sea, hit a target at a distance of about 560 kilometers, a range more than double that of the current missiles in Turkey’s arsenal.

“We have repeatedly stated that the replacement of threatening rhetoric with constructive and honest dialogue and communication is the key to de-escalation, the advancement of mutual understanding and the development of good neighborly relations between Greece and Turkey,” Stano added.

Erdoğan’s remarks also attracted criticism from the United States, with US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price saying during a press briefing in Washington on Monday that they “regret this escalation of provocative statements. It is especially regrettable at a time when unity and cooperation is needed most among our own NATO Allies.”

“All that an escalation of rhetoric will do is to is to raise tensions and to distract us from the unity of purpose, the unity of purpose that we need to confront any number of challenges, not the least of which, of course, is the threat that the Alliance potentially faces from Russia, and of course the ongoing active threat that the people of Ukraine face from Russian aggression,” Price said.

Turkey and Greece are bitter rivals involved in contentious geographic disputes, including exploration for natural gas off the divided island of Cyprus and the Dodecanese — a group of islands off the Turkish coast that were ceded to Greece by Italy following World War II. They mobilized their navies and warplanes in opposition to one another in the Mediterranean in 2020.

Erdoğan has lately accused Greece of “occupying” Aegean islands and equipping them with weapons and aircraft purchased from the United States.

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

In September, the United States said Greek sovereignty was not in doubt after Turkey lodged a protest over the deployment of Greek armored vehicles on the islands of Lesbos and Samos.

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