With Turkey upping provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean and pushing an energy hunt off Cyprus, Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos called on Turkey to stop what he said were unlawful activities.
He met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of a Council of Europe meeting in Helsinki as tension was rising over Turkey sending two research vessels into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) despite concern from the European Union.
Despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly sending fighter jets and warships to violate Greek airspace and waters and now invading Cyprus’ sovereign waters, Katrougalos said Greece still supports Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union.
France and Germany have also started to back off support for having Turkey in the bloc but Katrougalos told Politico in an interview that, “We’re among the few European countries that still believe in that,” he said.
He didn’t explain why the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA is still behind Erdogan who refuses to recognize Cyprus – a member of the EU – bars its ships and planes, and has unlawfully occupied the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion.
He noted, however, that Turkey “must first respect their obligations,” stressing that accession hinges on respecting “not just international law but also the rule of law and human rights,” similar to other entreaties Erdogan has always ignored.
Even as Katrougalos was backing Turkey, that country’s Turkey’s Foreign Ministry accused Greece of sheltering terrorists, following the acquittal by a Greek court of nine Turkish nationals, all ethnic Kurds, accused of being members of a terrorist organization.
“The acquittal reveals why these terrorist elements are nested in Greece,” said Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy in a written statement. This decision, he said, “is clearly interrupting” the efforts to combat terrorism in Europe.
The suspects were arrested and placed in pretrial detention ahead of a visit by Erdogan to Greece in December 2017, on suspicion of having links to the DHKP/C, a Turkish far-left group blamed for a string of attacks and suicide bombings in Turkey since 1990.
Greece and Turkey belong to NATO but the defense alliance has not rebuked Ankara for constant violations of Greek airspace and waters and said it wants no part of the trouble.