ATHENS – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, growing bolder and continually firing off threats, has broken off communication, but Greece’s New Democracy government is ready to talk over their disputes – if he stops provocations.
“It is up to Turkey to choose if it will come to such a dialogue or not, but the basic ingredient must be a de-escalation,” Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told Proto Thema newspaper in an interview.
That’s despite there being no indication Erdogan is willing to do either and he has instead stepped up belligerent talk and even warned he might invade and his forces would “come suddenly one night.”
The offer was made before an EU meeting in Prague where Mitsotakis’ government said he was willing to meet and talk as well, but only if Erdogan asked, boxing him in and no initial response.
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Turkey wants Greece to take troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast – which would leave them open to a takeover – and disputes Greece’s air and water boundaries, saying it would be a cause for war if the maritime limits are expanded to 12 miles. Ankara also plans to send energy research vessels off Greek islands.
“The one responsible for a de-escalation is the one causing the escalation, which is Turkey,” Dendias said, but Erdogan and Turkish officials said it’s the other way around – that Greece is to blame for the troubles between them.
Still, Dendias accused Turkey of keeping up and increasing provocations with a rhetoric of false and legally baseless claims and “even personal insults,” but only the countries’ two defense chiefs have spoken.
Turkish violations of Greek airspace are increasing too, he said, with NATO – the defense alliance to which both belong – wanting no part of the feud.
Dendias said Turkey is promoting a “revisionist narrative” of history, noting that Turkish claims that Greece cannot be an equal negotiator diplomatically, politically, and militarily violates the basic rule of foreign relations – the principle of equality among all nations.
“It is an insulting approach that ranks various countries as more or less equal,” Dendias said, not offering any ideas how to break the ice and get Turkey to talk.
Continuing his country’s relentless verbal assault, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that being a member of the European Union won’t help Greece if trouble brews between them. He said that Greece should follow international law that Turkey doesn’t recognize unless invoking to its advantage, and that it would a mistake for Greece to try to “hide behind the EU,” which he said is biased against Turkey.
“They are not helping reach a solution to disputes,” between Greece and Turkey over the seas, he said of the bloc that Turkey has been trying to join since 2005.
Turkey has demanded that Greece remove troops from Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast and disputes the sovereignty of the seas, citing the United Nations Law of the Sea – that Turkey doesn’t accept either.
Turkey sent a letter to the UN earlier laying out its claims and reasons why Greece should not be allowed to have troops on islands and whose removal would leave them open to invasion – as Turkey itself has warned it might do.
The UN wants no part of the feuds between them and Cavusoglu dismissed Greece’s response to the letter, saying it was “weak” and lacked “legal arguments,” said Turkey’s Anadolu Agency.
“We told them to not to put third parties between us. This was our agreement,” Cavusoglu said, citing Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to the United States where the Greek leader asked the Congress to block President Joe Biden’s plan to sell Turkey more F-16s and upgrade its Air Force.
That ticked off Erdogan, who said after that he would no longer talk to Mitsotakis – whom he said “no longer exists” for him, breaking off communications except between the countries’ defense ministers.
Both countries are in NATO, which is also staying out of it, and Turkey has undermined the defense alliance by buying S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, an ideological enemy, which could be used against Greece in a conflict.