Ranting against the West and Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country is being plotted against, pointing to a deadly attack on mosques in New Zealand and foreign energy companies and Greece hunting for energy in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas, parts of which Ankara claims.
Referring to the attacks in New Zealand police said were carried out by an Australian, Brenton Tarrant, Erdogan said, “They are testing us from 16,500 kilometers away, from New Zealand, with the messages they are giving from there.”
”This isn’t an individual act, this is organized,” he said at one of many rallies at the weekend ahead of local elections on March 31, Kathimerini reported.
“All Muslims, our country, our nation and myself are targeted,” he told supporters. Erdogan. Using footage that Tarrant put on Facebook, Erdogan screened the attack for his audience in an apparent attempt to inflame them.
In a manifesto, Tarrant said, “We are coming to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) and we will destroy every mosque and minaret in the city,” after he had visited Greece in 2016 and studied the ancient conflict between Greece and Turkey.
Muslims, he said, should be driven out of the part of Turkey that lies west of the Bosporus, and that the revered former Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia, now a museum, “will be free of minarets and Constantinople will be Christian-owned once more.” He also described Erdogan as the leader of the largest Islamist organization in Europe.
Speaking at an event marking the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 when Ottoman Turks defeated invading forces from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, Erdogan warned Western countries that, “Your grandparents came here and left in caskets. Do not doubt that you will have the same fate as your grandparents.”
He also warned the West that “you will not make Istanbul Constantinople” – the original name of the city before it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Erdogan said Tarrant had visited Turkey twice in 2016.
Erdogan’s been on a roll in recent days, undercutting attempts by Greek and Turkish defense ministers and foreign ministers to calm tensions after repeated violations of Greek airspace and waters by Turkish fighter jets and warships.
The Turkish leader is also irked that drilling for oil and gas is ongoing off Cyprus, with Turkey having unlawfully occupied the northern third since a 1974 invasion and unity hopes dashed since the collapse of talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.
With Greece also eyeing exploration in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey has disputed boundaries of the Continental Shelf as it has Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ.) The US and European Union back Cyprus’ right for drilling.
Erdogan, who doesn’t recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set borders between Greece and Turkey, also took a shot at the fall of the Greek city of Smyrna in 1922 before it was occupied.
"Izmir! You who throw the giaours in the sea and protect the helpless," he said, in an apparent reference to the Greeks who drowned while trying to flee a fire set by Turks in the port, Turkey’s name for the city where he was speaking, and non-Muslim Christians.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry retorted that, "Greece is not going to be swept away in the instrumentalization of foreign policy to serve domestic political expediencies, or use history with terms that are offensive to neighboring countries," in a statement.
"Such unacceptable references undermine the trust we hope to build between our countries and are not in line with the European perspective that the Turkish leadership claims to support," the ministry added.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry fired back that Greece’s response was “inconceivable and odd due to its content and timing,” when the countries were trying to allegedly better relations.
“This statement disregards the historical facts such as Greece’s past attempt to occupy Anatolia and the compensation it paid to Turkey due to the destruction and damage inflicted to Anatolia by its army. As such, the statement is very unfortunate and incompatible with the good neighborly relations as well as the environment of trust that we try to develop with this country,” the statement added.