ΑΝΚΑRA – The usual summer truce to allow both countries to benefit from tourists isn’t expected this year, with Greece bracing for anticipated increases in provocations from a volatile Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He’s no longer talking to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Turkish leader irked that the Greek premier had the ear of the US Congress in an address and said – without mentioning Turkey – that the US lawmakers should vote down US President Joe Biden’s hope to sell Turkey more F-16’s.
Erdogan said he would at some point again send an energy research vessel and warships to hunt for energy off Greek islands, is disputing Greek territory and seas, covets return of Aegan islands ceded away by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne he doesn’t recognize and demanded Greece take troops off islands near Turkey’s coast – citing the same agreement.
Greek government sources not named told Kathimerini that Mitsotakis’ adminstration believes it’s likely that Erdogan will increase violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets especially with NATO – the defense alliance to which both belong – refusing to intervene, emboldening him.
All that could turn into a long, hot summer for Greece, which has put troops and its Navy in the Aegean in a state of readiness in case of a conflict breaking out, accidental or otherwise.
Greece also is said to think that Erdogan will turn to sending more refugees and migrants to Greece and its islands although Turkey is supposed to contain them under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
Some 4.4 million people fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan but also sub-Saharan African and as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh went to Turkey hoping to get to the EU before the borders were closed to them.
Erdogan, who purged the civil sector, military, courts and education system after a failed 2016 coup attempt against him and has been jailing journalists to stifle criticism, is also dealing with record inflation and disgruntlement.
That means, said the paper, that he’s likely to stoke his conservative base with belligerent talk against Greece, which has included saying it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles.
He also said he would veto the hopes of Sweden and Finland to join NATO in what Greece reportedly believes is an attempt to blackmail the US into selling Turkey F-16s and also F-35’s whose purchase was barred when Erdogan authorized acquistion of Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems.
Those undermine NATO and could be used against Greece in a conflict but the defense alliance chief, Jens Stoltenberg, has admitted he wants no part of the feud between the countries.
If Erdogan is pressured into backing down over Sweden and Finland, the paper said he may try to take out his frustration with further provocations against Greece after the EU gave only lip service support to Mitsotakis when the Turkish leader broke off all communications with him.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned last week that Ankara will dispute the sovereignty of Greek islands in the eastern Aegean if they aren’t fully demilitarized and rid of all Greek troops.