ANKARA

Greece’s violation of international treaties by arming 18 Aegean islands serves only to escalate tensions and sabotage dialogue, Turkey’s top defense official said Sunday.

Greece should put aside ‘provocative behavior’ that raises tension in region, Hulusi Akar said in an interview with Anadolu Agency’s Editor-in-Chief Metin Mutanoglu in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya.

Underlining the importance of diplomacy in resolving disputes, Akar said Turkey is always on the side of dialogue and negotiation.

However, he added that the country would continue to defend its rights in the region.

Akar also criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s attitude towards the dispute in the region, calling on Greeks not to fall for initiatives he is leading to “save himself.”

Eastern Mediterranean situation

Tensions in the region have been high since Turkey resumed energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean last month, after Greece and Egypt signed a controversial maritime delimitation deal, spurning Ankara’s goodwill gesture of halting a previous search.

Despite opposition from Greece and some other countries, Turkey has repeatedly extended its research vessel Oruc Reis’s energy exploration in an area within Turkey’s continental shelf, with the latest announced on Aug. 31, this time until Sept. 12.

Turkey has consistently opposed Greece’s efforts to declare an exclusive economic zone based on small islands near Turkish shores, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean.

Ankara has also said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot administration.

Amid tensions over the Mediterranean territory and energy exploration, Turkey has repeatedly stressed its willingness to enter negotiations without preconditions, in contrast to Greece’s refusal in recent weeks to enter dialogue through both NATO or the EU.

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