An escalating war of words has erupted between Turkey and Greece over islands in the Aegean Sea, with both sides now exchanging accusations and threats in their respective languages.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish President, warned Athens on Thursday to demilitarise the islands that he claims were peacefully ceded to Greece.
Erdoğan stated that he was “not joking” and even posted tweets in Greek and English in a marked harshening of rhetoric against Turkey’s neighbour and historic regional rival.
“This nation is determined,” the Turkish President said on the final day of military exercises near Izmir.
Greece has stated that the islands, located within striking distance of a large Turkish landing fleet, cannot be left unprotected and have been garrisoned for decades.
While the two countries are NATO allies, they have long engaged in disputes over migration, maritime borders and mineral exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greece maintains Turkey has deliberately misinterpreted international treaties and says it has legal grounds to defend itself against hostile actions by Ankara.
After Erdoğan decided to tweet in Greek, a government spokesperson in Athens described it as “notable”.
“Greek is known as the language of reason, freedom and justice,” Giannis Oikonomou said. “The tactics Turkey has chosen do not fall under any of these categories.”
Oikonomou had earlier said that Greece dealt with Turkish “provocations” with “calm and determination.”
Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras even replied to Erdoğan in Turkish.
“Greece will protect its sovereignty against all kinds of threats,” he wrote on Twitter. “Let’s end the provocation and get back to dialogue based on international law.”
Last month, Erdoğan said he would stop talking to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after the Greek leader’s comments during a US trip.
“I think we are still very far from that point, far from the tension we had in the summer of 2020,” Mitsotakis said about a time when tensions flared between Greece and Turkey over gas exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Today, everyone needs to show restraint,” he said, commenting on tensions between Athens and Ankara, “especially when we are facing a very big challenge at NATO with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We must be united.”