ATHENS – With the Greek Independence Day parade as a backdrop, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos snapped at Turkish provocations in the Aegean and warned there would be no backing down from growing threats by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s boasting he would create a Greater Turkey even if it meant conflict.
“We will crush whoever dares to question our national sovereignty,” said Kammenos, leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the coalition led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA.
“Whoever has in mind large Ottoman empires should remember 1821. How the Greek people faced the Ottoman empire and crushed it,” he said. “Our armed forces are ready to face any challenge to (the country’s) territorial integrity,” he added,
Emboldened after Turkish troops took the Syrian city of Afrin, driving out his Kurdish enemy who are allies of the United States in the war on terrorism, Erdogan said, “We will definitely build a great Turkey,. “If necessary we will give our lives. If necessary we will take lives,” an apparent reference to his refusal to recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set borders with Greece and has he openly covets the return of Greek islands ceded away.
“We will not forget the wounds in our hearts caused by the artificial borders that they carved out,” he said. “After Afrin comes the resurrection.”
“Those who believed that our observations are bluffs or empty rhetoric will see that their mistake is fatal,” Erdogan said, adding that his statements reflect the “decisiveness of Turkey, of the policies of the state and the feelings of the people.” “We will succeed or we will be killed.”
With Erdogan set to face European Union leaders at a March 26 showdown in Varna, Bulgaria, Tsipras has asked for aid in getting the return of two Greek soldiers facing trial in Turkey after they said they accidentally crossed the border in a storm.
Both sides have denied they are being held as bargaining chips to force the return of eight Turkish soldiers seeking asylum in Greece after fleeing a failed July, 2016 coup against Erdogan in which they said they took no part.
But Kammenos, iring Tsipras – who doesn’t want to irritate Erdogan and said it’s up to the Turkish justice system to decide the fate of the Greek soldiers – has called them “hostages,” and after a curious silence has begun attack to go after the Turkish leader.
Kammenos said the continued detention of the Greek soldiers reflects on Turkey and that “such behavior takes them back to where they started, in deepest Anatolia.”