Greek foreign minister slams Turkish leader’s missile threat

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Greek government lashed out at Turkey Monday after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened over the weekend to hit Athens with ballistic missiles.

“It is unacceptable and universally condemnable for threats of a missile attack against Greece to be made by an allied country, a NATO member,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Monday, arriving in Brussels for a European Union foreign affairs meeting.

“North Korean attitudes cannot and must not enter the North Atlantic Alliance,” he said.

Speaking during a town hall meeting with youths in the northern Turkish city of Samsun on Saturday, Erdogan said Turkey had begun making its own short-range ballistic missiles called Tayfun, which, he said, was “frightening the Greeks.”

”(The Greeks) say ‘It can hit Athens,’ said Erdogan, whose comments were aired late Sunday. “Of course it will. If you don’t stay calm, if you try to buy things from the United States and other places (to arm) the islands, a country like Turkey … has to do something. ”

Relations between the neighbors and NATO allies have long been strained, with the two sides divided over a series of issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. They have come to the brink of war three times in the past half-century.

Turkey has ratcheted up the rhetoric in recent months, with Turkish government officials saying alleged violations by Athens of international treaties put the sovereignty of some Greek islands under dispute. Erdogan also threatened to land Turkish troops in Greece “suddenly one night.” Even so, a threat of a missile strike is highly unusual.

“Mr. Erdogan must know well that our country can be neither terrorized nor intimidated,” Greek government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said during a media briefing in Athens. “Mr. Erdogan thinks that as many times as he repeats the irrational and unjust, he can make it rational and just. That is not going to happen.”

Greece, Oikonomou said, “is absolutely determined, is always prepared, ready to defend international legality, to defend its sovereignty and its sovereign rights.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar accused Greece of increasing tensions with “unreasonable, illogical and unlawful demands and claims, as well as constant provocative actions and aggressive rhetoric.”

Akar apparently was referring to Turkish accusations that Greece was deploying troops and weapons on Aegean Sea islands in violation of treaties that require the islands to be non-militarized.

“It is not possible for us to accept any kind of fait accompli,” the defense ministry quoted Akar as saying during a Monday video conference with military commanders. “Our expectation is for some Greek politicians and military figures to immediately abandon their intransigent and provocative attitudes (that they have adopted) for domestic political purposes, focus on solving problems through dialogue and learn from history. Those who want a better tomorrow should turn away from the mistakes of yesterday and today.”


Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey

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