ANKARA – An agreement to ratchet down tensions already forgotten, Turkey has taken to repeating a drumbeat of demanding Greece take troops off islands near Turkey’s coast while reaching out with diplomacy and soft talk.
“We tell our neighbor Greece: ‘Hold this hand of friendship that we sincerely extend.’ Our neighbor takes a little slow step in the dialogue. We expect them to be a little more active,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said, reported The Hurriyet Daily News, although he didn’t offer details.
He didn’t note the irony of offering that while addressing the Distinguished Observer Day activities of the Blue Homeland Exercise via video conference, a doctrine under which Turkey claims big swathes of Greek seas and lands.
He said the two countries should work together to hunt for oil and gas and share revenues – but Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan said he would nevertheless send an energy research vessel and warships off Greek islands to look.
“The provocative actions and discourses of some Greek administrators continue,” despite Turkey’s calls for better ties said Akar, not mentioning that Turkey said it would be a cause for war if Greece extends its maritime boundaries from 6 to 12 miles, which could cut off parts of Turkey’s coast.
“These negatively affect our relationship. On the one hand, it is said that we are allies and neighbors within NATO, and on the other hand, a hostile attitude towards Turkey is displayed,” he said.
That wasn’t explained because it’s Turkey that has repeatedly sent F-16 fighter jets into Greek airspace and warships into Greek waters, while NATO, wanting no part of the fight, looking the other way.
Some statements that “accuse and defame” Turkey do not benefit anyone, Akar said, noting that pursuing acts such as armament is also against the interests and welfare of the Greek people. He didn’t explain how Greece keeping troops on islands in case of a Turkish invasion hurts Greeks.
“Greece has armed 16 of the 23 islands in violation of international agreements. This is a flagrant violation, a fundamental violation of the law,” he noted, although that’s in reference to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which Turkey doesn’t recognize.
Tensions at times have reach near-conflict levels although Erdogan withdrew an energy research vessel and warships near the island of Kastellorizo after the EU began mulling sanctions demanded by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Those were blocked by Germany, home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and a major arms supplier to both countries, Mitsotakis not happy about the move.
Greece has been building an arsenal against Turkey, purchasing French warships and Rafale fighter jets and making a mutual defense deal, with Turkey trying to match the arms race but have a big advantage with drones.
The two countries have had dozens of confidence-building measures talks that have produced no confidence nor any real progress and Erdogan keeps offering hands of friendships with slaps in the face.