ATHENS – Sending mixed signals, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is continuing to confound Greece’s New Democracy government about his intentions after a NATO meeting in Madrid where he refused to meet Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
He has alternated between saying he didn’t want a conflict with Greece while threatening it could happen if maritime boundaries are doubled to 12 miles – cutting off Turkey’s coast from the Aegean – to saying he doesn’t want war.
He warned that if it comes to a fight that Greece would suffer the same fate as 100 years earlier when pushed out of what is now Turkey in a defeat to Ottoman forces who beat back a Greek army and seized the territory.
“We have no intention of going to war with Greece. However, Greece does not keep its promises. They violated our airspace 147 times in a very short period of time. Of course, if you commit such violations, my air force will rise up and give you the answer you need,” he said.
He didn’t mention that it was Turkey violating Greek airspace repeatedly and claiming Greek terrorities and disputing the seas, Erdogan saying he would again send an energy research vessel and warships off Greek islands.
He said that the Greek people should punish Mitsotakis, who – like Erdogan – is facing elections again in 2023 unless the Greek leader calls snap polls to head off the sniping major opposition SYRIZA he unseated in 2019.
Erdogan also claimed that leaders at this week’s NATO Summit in Madrid tried to reconcile him with Mitsotakis, but claimed that, “We are not thinking about it at the moment. What the conditions will bring in the future… We will see and evaluate accordingly,” said Kathimerini.
Erdogan stopped talking to Mitsotakis – the two earlier in the year agreed to a detente that Turkey broke almost as soon as the meeting ended – after the Greek premier in an address to the US Congress urged lawmakers to reject President Joe Biden’s plan to sell more F-16’s to Turkey and upgrade the Turkish Air Force.
That could put Greece at risk and Biden, meeting Erdogan in Madrid, again said he would push Congress to approve the sale, Mitsotakis saying that he didn’t mind because Greece wants F-35 fighter jets from the US.