Stepping up the war of words that threatens to become more real, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Greece must back off tough talk over the rule of the Aegean Sea or face the consequences and pay a “heavy price” otherwise.
With relations between the NATO partners disintegrating, Akar said that “All should know that provocations in the Aegean, Mediterranean and Cyprus will have no effect,” the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
He was referring not only to tensions with Greece but Turkey’s insistence that foreign energy companies will not be allowed to drill for oil and gas off Cyprus in waters where the are licensed, including American energy giant ExxonMobil.
That came after the chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, warned that Greece will “flatten” any Greek islet if Turkish forces land there.
He got conditional support from the ruling Radical Left SYRZA-led coalition that includes Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the tiny, pro-austerity, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who has been taunting Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well.
Turkish fighter jets violated Greek airspace 14 times from Dec. 17-20 over the inhabited southeastern Aegean islands of Kastellorizo and Oinousses – amounting to almost half of the total (29) overflights in the first 11 months of 2018.
Greek analysts told Kathimerini the uptick in Turkey’s bellicose attitude is likely because Erdogan is playing to a domestic audience and trying to show opposition parties he wil take a hard line with Greece.
But Turkey’s growing belligerence came after the United States said Cyprus has a right to drill in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and showed increasing support for Greece where America wants an expanded military presence.