ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s defense minister described Turkey on Wednesday as an “enemy that continues to provoke us” and said he had ordered the deployment of more military personnel to islands in the eastern Aegean Sea.
Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said 7,000 service members were being moved to the islands and a border area in northeast Greece amid a spike in tension between the two NATO allies.
“If they have the guts, let them dare to challenge one inch of our territory,” Kammenos said while attending a reservist exercise on the island of Ikaria. “The Greeks, united, will crush them.”
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 a Turkish prison.
“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.”
Kammenos, who heads the small right-wing Independent Greeks party, is a junior partner in the government of left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has taken a conciliatory position toward Turkey.
In a televised address Tuesday, Tsipras called for “calm and moderation” in dealings with Turkey.