Greek defence minister says confidence-building measures with Turkey key priority

Adopting confidence-building measures with Turkey in a bid to reduce tensions in the Aegean is a key priority, Greece’s new Defence Minister Evangelos Apostolakis said.

Athens is aiming to implement the confidence-building measures agreed in 1988 by then Greek foreign minister Karolos Papoulias and Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, Greek newspaper Kathimerini quoted the former military chief as saying.

Political and military tensions between the two Aegean neighbours have escalated since December 2017 over an array of issues, including territorial and mineral rights in the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean seas.

The enforcement of the 1988 agreement will serve “to avert the creation of frequent unnecessary tensions that could lead to a possible accident with uncontrollable consequences,” Apostolakis told the newspaper while highlighting the established “channel of communication” between himself and his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar.

Apostolakis also said that Turkey’s “Blue Motherland” air and sea exercises – touted as the country’s biggest ever – set to be held next week were part of “regular training activities” of the Turkish armed forces but would nonetheless be monitored by Greece’s armed forces.

The Greek defence minister also commented on a statement he made in December while still armed forces chief, when he said Greece would “flatten” any rocky islet that Turkish forces land upon in the Aegean” saying his words were an expression of “the readiness and capability of the Greek armed forces to defend national interests when and if required.”