State borders are defined by international law, not photos, Dendias says in stern message to Turkey

“The borders of states are not defined by any map one likes to draw but on the basis of international law,” Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Monday, in a stern message to Turkey over higher migration flows but also a controversial photograph of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan standing in front of a map depicting half the Aegean Sea as Turkish.

In an interview with Alpha radio station, Dendias said that the spike in refugee arrivals to the same levels as in 2012 was a violation of the EU-Turkey agreement on migration, while expressing his “sorrow” over the controversial photograph and map.

Turkey’s illegal actions, he added, “simply entrench its image as an offender and produce no legal results,” while he urged Ankara to “act seriously” and return to a framework of international law, noting that Greece will not be “pressured” into meetings.

Questioned about the involvement of the Hellenic Navy in patrolling Greece’s sea border, Dendias said that all Greek forces were pitching in to address the migration crisis and control the situation in a humanitarian way, noting that there was no reason for the Navy not to be involved in this collective effort.

Regarding the escalation of tension in the Aegean and in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Dendias referred to the measures taken by the EU in Cyprus and expressed hope that Turkey will comply so that harsher measures are not needed.

The minister also stressed that Greece knows how to defend its territorial rights and Athens considers that stability requires adherence to international maritime law as this applies, “not as someone migt interpret it by drawing freely, as if it were a surrealist painting.”

“We would very much like to reach an understanding with the Turks but are not prepared to follow them in the ‘Balkanisation’ of life in the area, nor in their regional provincialist approach they have adopted,” he said.

He advised Turkey to “get serious” and return to framework of international law “so that we can talk”, adding that Turkey was currently operating as the troublemaker in the region. Dendias also noted that without a serious framework, which could not exist when Turkey was constantly creating problems, there could be no meeting with his Turkish counterpart.

“The fact that we don’t act like a Balkan troublemaker does not mean that we don’t know how to defend our national rights. We are a serious, stable and democratic European country,” he said.

On the Prespes Agreement and its implementation, Dendias stressed that the “state has continuity” and the agreement must be strictly implemented by both sides, warning that Athens will not be a “lenient” but stern observer of whether North Macedonia was fully implementing the agreement.