ATHENS – Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said he fears Turkey's offer of dialogue over boundaries in the Aegean and East Mediterranean is a ploy to head off possible sanctions at a European Union meeting Dec. 10-11 and said the bloc's leaders should be on guard.
After constantly saying Turkey would take what it wants and sending the energy research vessel the Oruc Reis and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo – and targeting waters around more – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would pull them back before the EU meeting.
Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis had pulled back his insistence on EU sanctions for Turkish provocations but that resulted in Erdogan immediately sending his ships back in, tricking Greece and the bloc.
Now Erdogan, with Turkey on the firing line again, has similarly offered what he said was a goodwill gesture in for now ceasing provocations – before Turkey reserved more waters around Greek islands anyway.
Dendias, said Kathimerini, fears Erdogan is preparing to deceive the EU yet again and trying to pre-empt any potential penalties at the December meeting that would in any case exempt him and likely not be overly strict, the EU fearing he will otherwise unleash more refugees and migrants through Greece and its islands near Turkey's coast.
Turkey is holding some 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war and strife in their homelands and economic hardships in other areas, especially sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU, Turkey has let human traffickers keep sending them, although in lesser numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, to Greek islands holding 34,000 of them, another some 66,000 in mainland detention centers and camps.
Turkey is also drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus, defying soft EU sanctions that targeted only two executives of Turkey's state-run petroleum company have proved no deterrent so far.
Dendias said Turkey has been given every opportunity so far, “but did not respond.” He noted that last-minute statements by Turkey will not deceive the EU. “The European Union is not naive,” he said, although it had been before.
“Greece of course has always remained faithful to the idea of honest dialogue,” he said, while insisting that Turkey must show it observes international laws while it doesn't recognize the United Nations Law of the Sea.
“The EU has delayed decisions on measures and sanctions, stating willingness to examine a positive agenda of actions and policies toward Turkey, but on the same condition: that Turkey’s illegal activities cease once and for all,” he said.
He added that ongoing Turkish provocations “scupper any prospect of dialogue with our country and, unfortunately, leave no room for any positive agenda at the upcoming European Council.”