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Turkey summons Greek envoy over US military buildup in Aegean islands

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Greece deploys armored vehicles to the Aegean Islands of Lesbos and Samos, on Sept. 25, 2022. (AA Photo)

Turkey has summoned the Greek ambassador to protest the deployment of US-made armored vehicles to two disputed Aegean islands near the Turkish coast, which Ankara insists must remain demilitarized in line with international treaties.

Christodoulos Lazaris was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry on Monday, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported, without providing more details.

Greece and Turkey, both members of the US-led NATO military alliance, have been at loggerheads for years over maritime borders and energy exploration rights in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean seas.

The latest escalation sparked after Turkish security agencies shared aerial images over the weekend purportedly showing ships loaded with US armored vehicles docking at two Greek islands, Lesbos and Samos, as reported by Anadolu Agency.

Turkey called on Athens to respect international treaties and emphasized the deployment was in violation of the islands’ nonmilitary status.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Turkey wouldn't hold back on defending its rights and interests against Greece, accusing Athens of playing “perilous games.”

"We will not fail to defend our country's rights and interests against Greece by using all the means at our disposal, when necessary," Erdogan said following a cabinet meeting.

Athens rejected Ankara’s objection calling it “completely unfounded and incompatible with international law", AFP news agency reported a Greek diplomatic source as saying.

Tensions between the two countries flared in 2020 over exploratory drilling rights in areas of the Mediterranean Sea, leading to a naval standoff.

More recently, Ankara has accused Greece of violating international treaties by militarizing islands in the Aegean Sea and said Greek surface-to-air missiles were locking on to Turkish F-16 fighter jets carrying out a reconnaissance mission in international airspace.

At the UN General Assembly session last week, Erdogan accused Greece of committing "crimes against humanity" by carrying out potentially deadly expulsions of migrants traveling from the Turkish mainland to nearby Greek islands.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis dismissed the accusation as "absurd," saying Turkey was "weaponizing" migration to put political pressure on Greece and other European countries.

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