Greek Minister Says Erdogan Playing Dangerous Seas Games


Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis (EUROKINISSI/Sotiris Dimitropoulos)

ATHENS - Turkey is making a mistake ramping up provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean and signing a deal with Libya carving up the seas between them, Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said.

"Reaction to this neo-Ottoman expansionism is strong and comes from everywhere. Erdogan is playing with fire and generates reaction not only from Greece but also from all players in the international system," said Varvitsiotis, reported Kathimerini.

That was in reference to the Greece getting moral support from the European Union which has been unwilling to get tougher with sanctions as critics said bloc leaders are fearful that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will unleash millions more refugees and migrants on the continent, through Greek islands.

They had gone to Turkey fleeing war and strife in the Middle East and are being sent to nearby Greek islands by human traffickers being allowed to operate during an essentially suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.

Greece is overwhelmed with more than 96,000, including more than 45,000 on islands and Erdogan is using the threat of sending more as a bargaining chip to expand Turkish drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus to near Crete.

Under the deal with Libya, Turkey is claiming waters off Greek islands, also including Rhodes and so far Erdogan has done whatever he wants with no one moving to stop him from proceeding.

That has ramped up worries of a military conflict with Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis visiting military detachments on the island of Kasos on Christmas Day to declare Greece would defend its sovereignty, although he said he prefers diplomacy, which isn’t working.

Varvitsiotis said Erdogan’s tactics will find Turkey further isolated and that Greece is prepared for any eventuality, sending that message to Ankara through an interview with SKAI radio.

He said Erdogan is acting in a risky manner by planning to send troops to Libya where he made a deal with the United Nations-recognized government in one part of the country while Greece is dealing with rebels in another, who have the Parliament.

He stressed the significance of Mitsotakis going to Washington on Jan. 7 to meet President Donald Trump who sides with Erdogan although the US has signed a military cooperation deal with Greece, hedging its bets again with permanent interests, not permanent friends.