Turkey’s “Blue Motherland” Air, Sea Exercises Worry Greece

Greek coast guard vessel. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Sotiris Dimitropoulos)

With tensions increasing with Greece in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey said it will hold air and sea exercises – dubbed Blue Motherland – from Feb. 23-March 3 in those waters.

The code name was used by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar along with another warning to Greece – as well as Cyprus – to back off from the seas that Turkey claims.

“We will never allow any steps and faits accomplis to be taken despite of Turkey in our blue motherland,” he had said.

The maneuvers are also planned weeks after the anniversary of the 1996 near-clash over the disputed, rocky islets of Imia that both countries claim and where they nearly went to war and saw three Greek servicemen die in a helicopter crash that still is unexplained.

Turkey has reserved a 462,000-square meter (4,972,926 square feet) area in the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Seas for its exercises that come during a taut domestic situation worrying Greece that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is growing more bellicose.

During a visit to Izmir Erdogan recited a folk song with anti-Greek sentiment that talked about pushing Greeks into the sea and as he had said he don’t recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set borders between the countries and as he covets return of Greek islands.