ATHENS – Talking diplomacy and belligerent at the same time, Greece and Turkey are swapping shots over rights to the Aegean and East Mediterranean, this time with Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis telling Turkey to back off.
“Turkey must stop acting like an unpredictable neighbor,” Varvitsiotis told state broadcaster ERT, warning that Turkey’s often hostile behavior is undermining the country’s European Union membership hopes that Greece keeps supporting despite provocations.
He noted that the European Council, made up of the leaders of the bloc’s 27 member states, urged Turkey to refrain from “unilateral and provocative activities,” promptly ignored by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
While issuing tweets and statements allegedly supporting Greece, the EU refused to take up Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ demand for sanctions over Turkish plans to drill for energy off Greek islands.
That was done, the EU said, to give failed diplomacy another chance, which immediately led to Erdogan and Turkish officials ramping up the tension and fears of a conflict starting.
The two sides met on Jan. 25 in Constantinople in a 61st round of exploratory talks, the first 60 not going anywhere, and the resumption the first time they held a discussion in four years, although it was a non-binding chat.
They are set to meet again in Athens in March when the EU will again meet and said it would consider sanctions for a third time after backing away the first time two times.
EU leaders are reluctant to take on Erdogan, fearing he will unleash on the bloc – mostly through Greece and its islands – more refugees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homelands.
During the hiatus, Turkey has resumed its plans to continue hunting for energy near the Greek islands of Limnos, Skyros and Alonissos until March 2 with no word whether a Turkish vessel would be accompanied by warships or tracked by the Greek Navy.