US says Greek sovereignty on island ‘not in question’ after Turkey complaint

The United States said Wednesday that Greek sovereignty over two islands was not in doubt after Ankara lodged a protest over the deployment there of US armored vehicles.

Turkey on Monday summoned the Greek ambassador and complained to the United States after releasing aerial images that it said showed ships with the US armored vehicles docking in Lesbos and Samos.

“Greek’s sovereignty over these islands is not in question,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

“We urge all the parties to avoid rhetoric and to avoid taking actions that could further exacerbate tensions. The sovereignty the territorial integrity of all countries should be respected,” Price said.

Tension has risen in recent months between Greece and Turkey, fellow members of the NATO defense alliance, which have long feuded over maritime borders and energy exploration rights in the Aegean and east Mediterranean seas.

Turkey says that Greece is violating the non-military status of the islands. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne restricted naval bases and military aircraft from islands including Samos.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also accused Greece of “occupying” Aegean islands whose status was settled after World War II and has made a series of comments seen as threatening the neighboring country.

Greece has complained in turn to the European Union, NATO and the United Nations, accusing Turkey of preparing for war and violating Greek sovereignty and airspace.

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