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Politics

Report Says Turkey Had Contingency Plan to Seize 131 Islets in Aegean

ANKARA — If a conflict broke out with Greece with tensions soaring over disputing claims in the Aegean, Turkey’s military had prepared a list of 131 islands, islets and rock formations to seize them, said a confidential document.

That was obtained and published by Nordic Monitor, based in Sweden and operated by exiled Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, who was attacked and beaten there and is a target of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which accuses him of being a supporter of a group allegedly tied to a failed 2016 coup attempt.

Greece and Turkey are in exploratory talks over who has rights to the seas around Greek islands but the report indicated Turkey was ready to move on islets similar to a 1996 clash over Imia which almost brought them to war.

According to the report, the plan was part of a study that focused on coordination among branches of the Turkish armed forces in a time of crisis between the two NATO allies, the defense alliance giving Erdogan carte blanche to keep violating Greek airspace and waters.

The disputed islands, islets and rock formations included: three locations on Ladoxer (Zurefa in Turkish), 13 on Koyun Adalari (Oinousses), 21 on Hursit (Fimena), 18 on Nergiscik (Arkii), 15 Keci (Pserimos), 12 on Gelemez (Kalolimnos), 2 on Bulimic (Farmakonisi), 10 on Sakarcilar (Yali), 11 on Kocbaba (Levita), 2 on Karaada (Strongili) and 24 locations around the island of Crete where Turkey plans to hunt for oil and gas.

The presentation talks about how the Turkish military would move to take over the islands with the deployment of special forces from air and sea, the site reported on what it said was a secret document.

It “was found buried in the annexes of a case file in Izmir. Prosecutor Okan Bato seems to have dropped the ball by incorporating the secret plan into the evidentiary file when he was supposed to only make a brief note and put it away in a safe in the courthouse,” the report added.

Greece and Turkey just wound up a 62nd round of talks with no report on what, if anything of substance was discussed just ahead of a March 23-25 European Union meeting where, for a third time, sanctions against Turkey reportedly will be set aside.

The EU is already going easy on Turkish drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters and will not expand sanctions, earlier reports said, Turkey considered too important a trade partner, even Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said backing away from his demand for penalties.

But with Erdogan apparently given a green light, tension remains high and Greece and Turkey have agreed in principle to establish a 24/7 open line connecting their armed forces’ operations centers, said Kathimerni.

In a phone call, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg of the plans to have communication in case of trouble.

The conversation was held ahead of the upcoming NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Dendias said in a Twitter post, just before a meeting of Greece’s National Foreign Policy Council, with rival parties taking part.

While the council said Turkey has been provocative, the New Democracy government doesn’t want to take a tougher line although the major rival, which previously ruled, called for a harder stance, the paper said.

SYRIZA Member of Parliament George Katrougalos and center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) Andreas Loverdos reportedly said the government’s response has not been strong enough.

“The lack of planning has led to the surrender of the initiative to the other side and to our being limited to defensive and reflexive moves,” said Katrougalos after the meeting, although, when ruling, SYRIZA had also deferred.

“It looks like there will be no talk of sanctions at the next European Council. The EU-Turkish dialogue on issues that directly concern us, such as migration, continues without us. It is as if the government wants to gain time without telling us why,” he added.

Stoltenberg proposed a trilateral meeting with Dendias and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Brussels but Dendias declined because he’s set to talk with Cavusoglu on April 14 in Ankara, unless Turkey gets more belligerent.

Dendias wants to avoid talks under Stoltenberg’s aegis, which would elevate discussion above the “technical talks” level, said Kathimerini, which would give Turkey the upper hand.

“Greece is not afraid of dialogue. And dialogue doesn’t mean giving up sovereignty. We are entering dialogue to promote the rightness of our positions,” Dendias said while not wanting to talk about what Turkey wants to discuss, which includes demilitarization of Greek islands near Turkey’s coast.

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