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Erdogan says Turkey 'not joking' over warning to Greece to demilitarise Aegean islands 

Turkish president urges Athens to stop 'arming islands' with non-military status in comments likely to renew tensions
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a press conference in Ankara on 8 June 2022. (AFP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a press conference in Ankara on 8 June 2022. (AFP)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he is “not joking” about his calls for Greece to demilitarise islands in the Aegean Sea. 

Erdogan urged Athens to stop sending armed forces to islands with non-military status and abide by international agreements in comments likely to fuel a renewal of long-running tensions between the neighbours.

'I warn Greece to avoid dreams, acts and statements that will result in regret. Come to your senses'

- Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Last week he announced Turkey was halting talks with Greece, partly over a dispute with the Greek prime minister, and what Ankara calls airspace violations.

After a five-year hiatus, the two Nato members last year resumed talks to address differences in the Mediterranean Sea and other bilateral issues. The talks have made little progress and the countries have frequently traded barbs.

"I warn Greece to avoid dreams, acts and statements that will result in regret. Come to your senses," he said in a televised speech made as he observed Turkish military exercises near Izmir on the coast of western Turkey.

"Turkey will not renounce its rights in the Aegean and will not back down from using rights that are established by international agreements when it comes to arming islands."

The countries have long been at odds over issues such as maritime boundaries, overlapping claims over their continental shelves, airspace, migrants and a divided Cyprus.