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Turkish leader claims US bases in Greece pose direct 'threat' amid spat with Athens over NATO expansion


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Leader of Turkey’s far-right political group the Nationalist Movement Party (NHP) claimed on Tuesday that U.S. military bases located on Greece pose a direct “threat” to Turkish security. 

“Greece is playing with fire,” NHP leader Devlet Bahceli said in an address to Turkey’s parliament, according to a local news outlet. 

Bahceli claimed US bases pose “a threat to our security” and said “America is using the Greek side as a pawn.”

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference, in Ankara, Turkey, on May 14. 

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference, in Ankara, Turkey, on May 14. 
(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

ERDOGAN DISRUPTS NATO UNITY AMID PUTIN’S THREAT TO EUROPEAN SECURITY

The U.S. and Greece signed a five-year bilateral military agreement earlier this month in a move to shore up its defenses as Europe faces its greatest security threat since World War II following Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.

The agreement will grant the U.S. access to three bases on mainland Greece along with its long-standing naval presence on the island of Crete.

While Washington and Athens have championed the move, the Turkish political leader accused the U.S. of using already rocky Greek-Turkish relations to try and “push [Ankara] into a hot conflict environment.”

Turkey and Greece have shared tense relations for roughly a century, but Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has rekindled a decades-old spat as Turkey, a NATO nation, attempts to gain political wins over the alliance.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan frustrated NATO nations earlier this month when he said he will refuse admittance of Sweden and Finland into the alliance over claims they have allowed individuals he has deemed terrorists to remain in their countries. 

Some have accused Erdogan of acting as Putin’s “Trojan horse” as he looks to block the security agreement amid the increased threat facing Europe.   

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during their talks at the Kremlin on March 5, 2020, in Moscow, Russia. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during their talks at the Kremlin on March 5, 2020, in Moscow, Russia. 
(Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

LAWMAKERS WARY THAT TURKEY IS ‘PLAYING DOUBLE GAME’ IN NATO, ARMS NEGOTIATIONS

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appeared to suggest earlier this month during a trip to Washington, D.C that U.S. lawmakers should reject previously proposed arms deal with Ankara as long as it holds NATO hostage. 

But Turkish officials have also pointed to their decades-long frustration with Western allies when it comes to spats with their Aegean neighbor.

Following the end of World War II more than a dozen islands were forcibly ceded from Axis-aligned Italy to Greece under the 1947 Paris Agreement. But by 1964 Turkey had claimed that 12 of the islands had actually been stolen from them in 1912 and suggested Greece should hand over six of the islands as a show of good neighborly relations. 

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on June 14, 2021.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on June 14, 2021.
(Reuters/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo)

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Greece refused and the two nations have engaged in land, air and sea disputes since. 

“The subject of 12 islands is our wound that has not yet healed. They have been unjustly usurped from Turkey by foot tricks,” Bacheli reiterated Tuesday. “The stolen property must be returned to its owner.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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