ANKARA – Turkey’s swiveling between offering diplomacy or gunboats and demands that Greece take troops off its islands near Turkey’s coast is roiling the waters between the countries and plans to hunt for energy.
Officials not identified told Kathimerini that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, trying to hold down uneasiness over a crumbling economy, has become further upset about Greece buying weapons from France and a mutual defense deal between those countries, and also a growing American military presence in Greece.
A nervous Turkey has also been lashing out in other areas, including what Greece said is trying to revise history in Erdogan’s condemning President Katerina Sakellaropoulou for citing the genocide of Pontic Greeks 100 years go.
During an event to discuss plans for a memorial to them, she referred to the massacre of the Greeks of Pontos, a region in northeast Turkey, during 1914-18 and said Greece must not lose that memory.
“Ensuring peace, security and stability in Southeastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean is a cornerstone of our national strategy,” Sakellaropoulou told the paper about the attacks on her and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar’s claims unlawfully has troops on its own islands near Turkey.
“We never abandoned diplomacy, [conducted] with the interests of our country and the prosperity of the wider region in mind. We have consistently sought cooperation with Turkey and seek harmonious coexistence and friendship between the two peoples. But there can be no retreat in the face of unacceptable claims and aggressive acts,” she added.
Akar was upset that Greece is buying 18 Rafale fighter jets from France as well as three French Belharra warships and upgrading its F-16 fighter jets to deal with constant violations of Greek airspace by Turkish pilots.
Akar said that was provocation and a“vain effort and a waste of resources,” and Erdogan told French President Emmanuel Macron, that “the Greeks do not have the financial capability to pay for the weapons systems.”
Turkey isn’t sitting still and is working to build up its own arsenal although denied purchasing US-made F-35 fighter jets because of acquiring the Russian S-400 missile system that undermines NATO and could be used against Greece in a conflict.
Turkey also makes drones that it wants to sell to other countries, with Greek officials said to to believe Erdogan wants no challenges to his ambitious of being a regional power and wanting hegemony.
It’s likely, they believe – the paper said – that he will keep up the tough talks ahead of Presidential and parliamentary elections that will take place the same time in June 2023.