ATHENS – Greece’s New Democracy government, saying it won’t fall into a trap, is trying to keep calm as a furious Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, incensed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ address to the US Congress has turned up the heat again.
Erdogan said he’s no longer talking to Mitsotakis, whom he said no longer exists, and has cut off communication, bringing worry that it will be followed by more provocations, such as Turkish fighter jet violating Greek airspace even more, and Turkey hunting for energy off Greek islands.
Mitsotakis said he still wants to try diplomacy with the volatile Erdogan, who said the Greek leader shouldn’t have – without mentioning Turkey by name – told the US Congress to block President Joe Biden’s plan to sell Turkey more F-16’s.
But Mitsotakis said Greece is ready to defend its sovereignty if Erdogan takes his words into action and there is a conflict or further increase in tension with Turkey also demanding that Greece take troops off Aegean islands near its coast.
Greece also sent to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – who didn’t respond – a letter rejecting Turkey’s insistence on demiliatarization of the Greek islands near Turkey, which would leave them open to a takeover.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu suggested that Turkey would use force unless Greece takes troops off the Greek islands, Turkey saying the soldiers aren’t allowed under terms of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
Turkey, however, doesn’t recognize that treaty unless invoking to its advantage and Erdogan said he doesn’t accept terms that ceded some islands to Greece, and which he wants back.
Greece and Turkey typically ratchet down the tension during the summer so as not to scare off tourists who are a critical source of revenue but Kathimerini said Greece this time expects an uptick in provocations.
The Greek government is said to believe that Erdogan will increase pressure to get what he wants, especially with NATO continuing to look the other way over violations of Greek airspace – which Turkeys claims as its own.
Sources not identified told the paper that Erdogan believes the United States, UN, NATO and EU will cave because of Turkey’s geopolitical position, that Turkey will show it’s a force to be reckoned with and that Erdogan will stay close to Russian President Vladimir Putin who ordered the invasion of Ukraine.
Turkey, which has been trying to join the EU since 2005, refused to go along with the bloc’s diluted sanctions over the invasion but Erdogan also sold drones to Ukraine to use against Russian soldiers and tanks and artillery.
But in what’s seen as a further attempt to appease Putin and blackmail the US into selling Turkey F-35 fighter jets after a prohibition over Turkey buying Russian-made S-400 missile systems, Erdogan said he would veto any chance of Finland and Sweden joining the defense alliance.
The paper noted that Turkey has bought a new energy drilling ship which indicates that Erdogan will make good on his word to look for oil and gas in and around Greek waters, ignoring any soft EU sanction threats seen.
Asked about the possibility of a Mitsotakis-Erdogan meeting at the NATO summit in Madrid in June, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said Greece is “always ready to talk to our neighbors, but certain conditions must be met. And it is certainly not a condition for Greece to behave as Erdogan wishes.”