Greece will do ‘whatever it takes’ to protect sovereignty from Turkey

Greece says it is willing to enter discussions with Turkey on a range of issues but warned it is willing to “whatever it takes” in order to protect its sovereignty, Bloomberg said on Friday.

Turkey and Greece are locked in an escalating dispute over hydrocarbon exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

“If the only difference we have is on the proclamation of an exclusive economic zone, then we are ready to negotiate and sit at the table with Turkey and discuss the issue,” Bloomberg cited Greece’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis as saying,

Greece is also willing to discuss the economy, tourism, COVID-19 and migratory flows, he said.

“But if the issue is to contest Greek sovereignty over islands in the Aegean sea, then the response is no,” Varvitsiotis added. “We’re not discussing our sovereignty, we’re not giving away Greek soil and we will do whatever it takes to defend it.”

Tension has been rising between Greece and Turkey in recent months after Ankara signed a maritime agreement in November with Libya, which extended Turkey’s maritime claims around the divided island of Cyprus and in some areas Athens says are theirs under international law.

Tensions have also escalated over Turkey’s possible move to re-convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque. The UNESCO world heritage site has a special significance for Greeks, who see it as one of the most important Orthodox Christian monuments dating back to the Byzantine Empire.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Thursday the disagreement around Hagia Sophia “is not a Greek-Turkish issue - it’s a universal issue”.