FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. (Vladimir Smirnov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
ANKARA – The European Union, reluctant to confront Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has jumped to Greece’s defense in denouncing his belligerent threats that even threaten war.
“Greece needs to think about what kind of relationship it wants with Turkey. As I always say, we might come one night,” Erdogan said in stepping up his bellicose comments, including demands Greece take troops off islands near Turkey.
“The continuous hostile remarks by the political leadership of Turkey against Greece … raise serious concerns and fully contradict much needed de-escalation efforts in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Peter Stano, spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, stated, said Reuters.
“Threats and aggressive rhetoric are unacceptable and need to stop”” he added, underlining EU demands that differences be settled using international laws, some of which Turkey doesn’t recognize.
“The EU reiterates its expectation from Turkey to seriously work on de-escalating tensions in a sustainable way in the interest of regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU member states,” Stano said.
Erdogan, facing a tough re-election campaign in 2023 and his popularity slipping, has become inflamed over what he claimed were Greek missile defenses locking on to Turkish F-16 fighter jets during a NATO missing with US bombers.
Greece denied the accusations but it was seen as another opportunity for him to ratchet up the roughhouse rhetoric that has seen the Greek side try to counter with diplomacy and not take the bait.
Turkey has regularly violated Greek airspace and waters and Erdogan said he would at some point send an energy research vessel and warships off Greek islands, disputing Greece’s sovereignty.
Erdogan this time spoke to reporters during a tour of the Balkans, with stops in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia and zoned in on the lock-on assertions, doubling down on them.
“On the issue of radar-lock, our sensitivity persists with determination. Greece is aware of this and has chosen to clean up its act,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Erdogan as saying.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgicfired back at the EU’s support for Greece as Turkey has been frustrated for 17 years in trying to join the 27-member bloc, which began in 2005 and has worsened under Erdogan.
The EU is “pampering” Greece and supporting its “pursuit of maximalist demands,” Bilgic said, adding to the almost daily barrage against Greece that has brought occasional fears of a conflict.
“Those who make these statements ignore Greece’s violations, harassment and threats, provocative actions and rhetoric against our country, and their actions and practices against international law. Their indifference is a complete disgrace,” he said, reported Turkey’s Anadolu agency.
Bilgic added that the EU’s “unquestioning support for Greece in Aegean and Mediterranean conflicts on the grounds of solidarity with a member state is against both the EU’s own acquis and international law.”
Its statements, he said, “have no meaning or value for Turkey,” without explaining why, if that’s the case, that Turkey gets so cranked up about the EU backing a fellow member over an antagonist.
Greece reacted by saying it will not follow Turkey in its “outrageous daily slide” of statements and threats that have included warnings it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles.
BCHARRE, Lebanon (AP) — Majestic cedar trees towered over dozens of Lebanese Christians gathered outside a small mid-19th century chapel hidden in a mountain forest to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, the miracle where Jesus Christ, on a mountaintop, shined with light before his disciples.
DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces battled Hamas militants across Gaza on Wednesday after expanding their ground offensive to its second-largest city, further shrinking the area where Palestinians can seek safety and halting the distribution of vital aid across most of the territory.
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