Greece’s defense minister has said 7,000 service members from the Greek armed forces are being moved to islands in the eastern Aegean Sea and a border area in northeast Greece, amid a spike in tension with Turkey.
Minister Panos Kammenos described Turkey as an “enemy that continues to provoke us” and announced that he has ordered the deployment of 3,500 additional military personnel in the Aegean and another 3,500 across Turkey’s border in Thrace.
“If they have the guts let them dare to challenge one inch of our territory ... the Greeks, united, will crush them,” Kammenos said at a reservist exercise on the eastern island of Ikaria on April 4.
There was no immediate comment from Turkish officials.
Greece and Turkey remain at odds over air and sea boundaries in the Aegean Sea, as well as oil and gas drilling off the coast of nearby Cyprus, which has been divided into ethically Greek and Turkish sides for decades.
The March 1 arrest of two Greek soldiers who strayed into Turkish territory while on a border patrol has further strained relations between the two countries. The soldiers remain detained in Turkey.
“What is needed is the vigilance of the entire Greek people in facing an opponent, an enemy that continues to provoke us,” Kammenos said.
“We are not frightened or brought to our knees by their provocations, their threats, and their insults. They make us stronger,” he added.
Kammenos, who heads the small right-wing Independent Greeks party, is a junior partner in the government of left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
In a televised address on April 3, Tsipras called for “calm and moderation” in dealings with Turkey.