With Greece and Turkey narrowly averting a conflict again over the disputed rocky islets of Imia in the Aegean, some political party leaders in Turkey said they would invade Greek islands if they come to power.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) that is the main opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was given near-dictatorial powers in the wake of a failed coup attempt in July, 2016, said he wants to invade 18 Greek islands in the Aegean and would go to war with Greece.
He stated he would “invade and take over 18 Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, just as former Turkish PM Bulent Ecevit invaded Cyprus in 1974,” the British newspaper The Express reported, adding that it could trigger World War III as the two countries are NATO allies and a conflict could bring in the international community.
Meral Akşener, head of the newly-formed Good Party, who also plans to run in elections next year, said she too wants war with Greece, tweeting that “What is required must be done,” in an ominous warning.
Turkey is also involved in a military operation in the Afrin region of Syria, has seen relations with the United States worsen and Erdogan ratcheting up tension with Greece two months after he went to Athens to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a bid to cool down the troubles.
But he had Turkish fighter jets keep being sent to violate Greek airspace and sent warships past Greek islands in the Aegean, where he said he covets the return of lands ceded to Greece as part of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne he doesn’t recognize.
In a recent speech, he continued his aggressive rhetoric and hinted he too could confront Greece after issuing a warning to “those who have crossed the line in the Aegean and Cyprus.”
He continued: “Their courage persists only until they see our army, our ships and our planes…Whatever Afrin is to us, our rights in the Aegean and Cyprus are the same,” as he picked up a nationalist bent.
Turkey also has warships preventing an Italian energy company, ENI, from reaching waters in Cyprus where it, along with a US and a French company, are licensed to drill, disputed by Turkey which claims rights in the area and has demanded a share of any revenues derived by potentially lucrative gas and oil discoveries.
“Do not ever think that the natural gas exploration in the waters of Cyprus and the opportunistic attempts in the Aegean Sea drop off our radar,” Erdogan said.
“Just as we disrupt the plots (in the region) through Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch (on Syria), and soon in Manbij and other regions, we can and we will disrupt the plots of those who engage in miscalculations on our southern border. Our warships and air forces are keeping an eye on the area closely to intervene in every way when required,” he added.
The New York City-based Gatestone Institute, a right-wing think tank, warned of growing Turkish aggression even though Greece and Turkey pulled back ships from Imia, where they almost went to war in 1996 and where three Greek servicemen died in a still-shadowy helicopter crash amid criticism it was covered up to prevent a conflict.
“Turkey’s ruling party, and even much of the opposition, seem intent on, if not obsessed with, invading and conquering these Greek islands, on the grounds that they are actually Turkish territory,” Gatestone wrote.
“Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), however, and even much of the opposition seem intent on, if not obsessed with, invading and conquering these Greek islands, on the grounds that they are actually Turkish territory,” their report added.