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Politics

Greece Sees Turkey’s Bad Moon Star Rising, Trouble on the Way

ATHENS – Greece expects no respite in Turkey cranking up the anxiety meter this summer, believing an emboldened President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will keep pressing claims on Greek waters while keeping NATO at bay.

Erdogan and even rival party leaders in Turkey are demanding that Greece take Greek troops off Greek islands near Turkey’s coast, citing the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne they don’t recognize unless invoking to their advantage.

Turkey is expected to send another note to the United Nations, which has show no interest in getting involved in the spat between the countries, challenging the sovereignty of the Greek islands guaranteed by the treaty.

Erdogan at the same time said he won’t abide by the treaty having ceded away islands to Greece and said he wants them returned, and even said it could happen by military force.

The European Union has given Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis only token support so far, with Germany – home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and a major arms supplier to Turkey – not even initially backing the Greek leader after Erdogan said he wouldn’t speak to him anymore.

The note to the UN, said Kathimerini, would likely come from Turkey’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Feridun Sinirlioglu to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who has shown no stomach for confrontations.

Turkey in May sent a note to the UN – with no reported response – complaining about the Greek troops on Aegean islands and demanding they be demilitarized, which would leave them open to an easy takeover.

Another move Turkey is seen making is giving a license to the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation under Erdogan’s control to hunt for energy near the islands of Rhodes and Crete – where the US Navy has a base on Souda Bay.

That would escalate Turkey’s claims to waters around Greek islands and could set the state for a showdown, as Turkey sends warships to accompany energy research vessels, Erdogan then disputing Greece’s sea rights.

Turkey also warned that it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles, which would cut off Turkey’s coast in the Aegean, and Erdogan becoming more belligerent.

PUSHING THE ENVELOPE

Greek officials are certain that tensions that usually are dialed down in the summer to allow both countries to have tourists come without worry will be pumped up with Erdogan seeing how far he can go.

He’s been getting indirect support from NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg who called Turkey a “valuable ally,” and refused to intervene over Turkey violating Greek airspace, the alliance security undermined by Turkey buying Russian-made S-400 missile systems that could also be used against Greece.

The volatile Erdogan, who refused to go along with EU sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine, is facing re-election in 2023 and has been playing to his Conservative base in an apparent attempt to distract attention from record inflation.

His ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that has had near-autocratic rule on the country behind a zealous hard-core base of supporters has been slipping in polls, however.

That has seen Erdogan become even tougher in his talk against Greece after breaking off communications with Mitsotakis and the EU on the sidelines, NATO remaining neutral and the UN disinterested.

The US could be a catalyst, having renewed a military cooperation agreement with Greece that will bring more American bases, but President Joe Biden also wants to sell Turkey more F-16s that could be used against Greece, Washington always favoring permanent interests, not friends or allies.

But while Greek officials are cut off from Turkey, including Mitsotakis, the Greek government counting on US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan talking to and Erdogan’s chief adviser and Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, the paper said.

Sullivan and Kain are expected to meet to talk about deteriorating US-Turkish relations in the wake of Mitsotakis talking to the US Congress and urging lawmakers to vote down selling Turkey fighter jets – without naming Turkey.

Greek officials, the report said, hope that Sullivan can talk Turkey down from a near war-like stance and soften its stance toward Greece, which Erdogan has shown no signs of doing, digging it his heels instead.

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