BERLIN – Germany is ignoring requests from Greece not to sell six submarines to Turkey which could be used against Greece in a conflict, after Chancellor Angela Merkel blocked sanctions for Turkish plans to drill for energy off Greek islands.
Greece’s biggest military advantage against the vastly superior armaments of Turkey had been German submarines proving almost undetectable but that will be taken away with Turkey acquiring them as well.
Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos asked German defense chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to suspend the sale but was flatly rejected, said the Greek newspaper Proto Thema.
The paper said that Kramp-Karrenbauer replied, “The program to build and sell in Turkey the six type-214 submarines cannot be stopped – or even delayed – because the construction company Thyssen is bound by contracts signed since 2002.”
Panagiotopoulos had argued selling Turkey the submarines after Turkey bought a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system would upset the balance of power in the region after other critics said NATO’s defenses would be undercut.
Turkey had been planning to do energy research off the Greek island of Kastellorizo and Crete – where the US Navy has a base on Souda Bay – but has put that on hold during a resumption of exploratory talks with Greece.
A four-hour session was held Jan. 25 in Constantinople that was essentially a chat with nothing of substance discussed and a second will be held in March in Athens ahead of the European Union due to take up sanctions talk again.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been able to forestall penalties by a tactic of sending an energy research vessel and warships in and around Greek sea boundaries only to pull them when sanctions are brought up.
Germany is also home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and Merkel has said reluctant to provoke Erdogan in fear he will flood the bloc through Greece and its islands with more refugees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war, strife and economic woes in their homelands.
The official statement on the phone call by the Greek defense ministry said that Panagiotopoulos briefed his German counterpart in detail on the Greek views concerning security and stability matters in the broader region, said Turkey’s pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in December opposed Greece’s demand to impose an arms embargo on Turkey amid the ongoing tensions at the same time Germany voiced alleged support for Greece’s position.
Speaking to Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa), Maas said: “I do not find the demand of an arms embargo against Turkey strategically correct. It is not easy to do this against a NATO partner. We saw that NATO ally Turkey easily bought missiles from Russia because it could not buy from the U.S.”
He said he hoped that diplomacy that has failed would somehow prove successful even though Erdogan said while willing to talk about boundaries in the Aegean and East Mediterranean would go ahead with drilling anyway.
NATO members Turkey and Greece also participated in failed deconfliction talks in 2020 bought by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg who admitted openly before that he wanted no part of the troubles and wouldn’t intervene over repeated Turkish violations of Greek airspace and waters.