Greece, Turkey Battle Lines Drawn Over Seas Dispute, No EU Help

July 20, 2020

Greece is girding for Turkey to keep a vow to begin drilling for energy off Crete, ratcheting up tension to near-conflict level and with worries shooting could start accidentally or otherwise.

Unchecked by the European Union which has issued only soft sanctions exempting him, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan authorized drilling off Cyprus and said he'll do the same off Greece's biggest island under a maritime deal signed with Libya.

Unrecognized by any other country despite Turkey sending a map to the United Nations asking for ratification, the agreement divides the seas with Libya, a move drawing widespread condemnation that Erdogan ignored.

Greek officials are anxious there could be incident over the summer, said Kathimerini, and that Turkey could also make a move off the island of Kastellorizo that is close to the Turkish shore and could be seized.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, while building an international coalition against Turkey and making energy deals with Cyprus, Israel and Egypt has nonetheless stuck to diplomacy that hasn't worked and been rebuffed by the EU.

The bloc's leaders are reluctant to provoke or confront Erdogan, fearful that he will unleash more hordes of refugees and migrants through Greece and its islands, Turkey holding 5.5 million who fled war and strife in other countries.

Under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU, Turkey is supposed to contain them but earlier this year Erdogan sent buses carrying 10,000 migrants to Greece's land border along the Evros River but failed to get them across.

Adding to the worries is that, apart from one recent phone call between Mitsotakis and Erdogan that yielded nothing, the lines of communication between the countries have been shut, which would cause delays in discussion if an incident occurs.

Turkey revealed its officials had secret talks earlier in July with Greek and German officials, with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas set to come to Athens to talk about Greek-Turkish relations and his country's role as a broker.

In a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, Mitsotakis called for “tough sanctions” against Turkey but didn't get them, only a proposal by European Council President Charles Michel for a special session on the EU’s strategic relationship with Turkey in September although that line has done nothing to stop Erdogan and more provocations looming.


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