Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis slammed Turkey on Tuesday due to what he claimed is an "unprecedented barrage" of airspace violations.
"We had an unprecedented barrage of overflights and a constant return to unthinkable assertions of supposedly reduced sovereignty of the Greek islands," said Mitsotakis according to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
The Greek premier stressed that his government was prepared to defend its national sovereignty against further incursions.
Mitsotakis further described the deterioration of Greek-Turkish relations as "unpleasant" after the two countries agreed on a "framework for mutual understanding" following a meeting in March between the Greek leader and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul.
The Greek premier appealed for support from Western allies.
"Our country's obligation is to point out this provocation to our allies and seek their support, whether we are talking about the U.S. or the EU," Mitsotakis said. "This support was given publicly and unconditionally."
The long strained diplomatic ties between Turkey and Greece are further complicated by the fact that both countries are members of the western defense alliance, NATO, established during the Cold War to counter external threats. However, it is not clear what mandate NATO has to interfere in a conflict between two NATO member states.
Mitsotakis expressed hope that the rising tensions between Greece and Turkey would not escalate hostilities on the ground.
"We have seen periods of heightened tension in rhetoric in the past," Mitsotakis said.
"I pray, hope and openly encourage Turkey that this rhetoric is not translated into greater tension in the field."
In May, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price urged both countries to mutually respect each other's airspace.
"We encourage all countries to respect the sovereign airspace of other countries and to operate state aircraft with due regard for the safety of navigation of civil aircraft," Price said.
While an open military conflict between Turkey and Greece is quite unlikely at this time, any further weakening in bilateral relations may lead to unintended escalations. A recent comparison reveals that the Turkish military is 30% larger than its Greek counterpart. For instance, the Turkish army numbers 425,000 active personnel compared to 130,000 Greek soldiers in active service. In addition, the Turkish Air Force boasts more than 1,000 planes compared to the Greek military with just 633 planes.
Erdoğan accused the Greek premier in late May of seeking to block the sale of American F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
"In that discussion, we agreed to not let third countries come between us. But despite this, just last week he went to the U.S. and to the U.S. Senate [and said…'Do] whatever is needed against Turkey,'" Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan, who has a history of controversial statements, bluntly declared that he is severing his ties with the Greek prime minister.
"Not only did he say these things, he said 'don't you dare give Turkey the F-16s,' essentially giving this recommendation to the U.S.," Erdoğan claimed. "This year we were supposed to have a strategic council meeting. There's no longer anyone called Mitsotakis in my book. I will never accept having such a meeting with him because we walk on the same path as politicians who keep their promises, who have character and who are honorable."
Turkey is also accusing Greece of "harboring terrorists." The Turkish government recently summoned Greek Ambassador Christodoulos Lazaris in Ankara to protest against what it described as Greece "turning a blind eye to terror groups."
The strong Turkish diplomatic reaction came after the Greek government allowed the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Greece. While many Kurds and their supporters view the PKK as a liberation movement, it is outlawed in Turkey and defined officially as a terrorist group by the European Union.
The Turkish government is also demanding that Greece demilitarize the Aegean Islands that are geographically close to Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu recently accused Greece of violating the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne when Turkey agreed to cede the islands to Greece on condition that they remain demilitarized.
"The agreements are there but Greece is violating them," the Turkish foreign minister said. "It's arming them. If Greece does not stop this violation, the sovereignty of the islands will be brought up for discussion. It's that clear. You will abide by the agreements."
This article originally appeared on ALL ARAB NEWS and is reposted with permission.