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Turkey-Greece: Ankara protests Athens' deployment of US-made armoured vehicles on two islands

Turkish drones have recorded landing ships carrying military vehicles donated by the US en route to Lesbos and Samos islands
Turkish defence ministry footage shows alleged deployment of US armoured vehicles on a Greek island off the western coast of Turkey last week (Screenshot)

Turkey has reportedly protested against the deployment of US armoured vehicles to the Greek islands of Lesbos and Samos, in the latest diplomatic escalation between Mediterranean neighbours Greece and Turkey. 

Turkey has long accused Greece of militarising the Eastern Aegean islands in contravention of international agreements signed after World Wars I and II. 

According to a report by the state-owned Anadolu news agency, the Turkish foreign ministry on Monday summoned the Greek ambassador to Ankara and asked him to put an end to the violations on the islands, which are located off the coast of western Turkey, and to restore their non-military status.

In a protest note given to the US, Turkey demanded that it respect the status of the Eastern Aegean islands and take measures to prevent the use of weapons.

On Sunday, Anadolu reported that Turkish army drones tracked Greece's deployment of armoured vehicles on the islands on 18 and 21 September, in violation of international law.

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"Video footage showed that the landing ships carried military vehicles donated by the US to the islands of Midilli (Lesvos) and Sisam (Samos)," the Anadolu report said.

The news agency cited security sources as saying that the Turkish drones recorded two landing ships en route to the islands and that the ships were carrying 23 tactical wheeled armoured vehicles to Lesbos and 18 to Samos.

Turkey and Greece have historically been engaged in a range of conflicts, including over maritime rights, the sovereignty of Aegean islands, natural gas, and airspace boundaries. 

Despite a brief rapprochement between the two Nato allies after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the two countries have been embroiled in a war of words recently, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatening that his country could "come all of a sudden one night", in response to what he claimed were hostilities from Greece.

In response, Athens sent letters to Nato, the European Union and the United Nations, saying Erdogan's comments meant the region risks falling into a war similar to the Russian-Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Turkey said that Greece had used a Russian-made air defence system to harass Turkish jets on a reconnaissance mission, in what it termed a "hostile action". Athens, meanwhile, accuses Ankara of overflying the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

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