ATHENS – Seeing the European Union and the West dither over what to do about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – which has drawn only financial sanctions – has raised anxiety in Greece that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might increase tension and even take Greek islands he said he wants returned.
That was raised by Kathimerini’s Diplomatic and Defense Editor Vassilis Nedos wrote that the invasion “could have a collateral effect on its relationship with Turkey.”
That was in reference to Erdogan – as did Putin with Ukraine – questioning historical borders, Turkey advocating a so-called Blue Homeland doctrine that has seen him coveting islands ceded under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
After the annexation of Crimea in 2014 – which Putin got away with, including Russia said to have shot down a commercial airliner – the report said theinvasion questions “existing borders and the use of violence to create faits accomplis … (it’s) causing a lot of worry in Athens, since it opens the Pandora’s box of border revisionism.”
Although Greece has been adding to its arsenal of defense, including making moves to buy French and American warships and to upgrade US-made F-16 fighter jets, that also saw Erdogan warn against an arms race and even a conflict if Greece does not demilitarize islands near Turkey’s coast.
He also said that if Greece doubles its territorial waters from 6 to 12 miles – which would give Greece control of 71.5 percent of the seas between them, that it would be a cause for war.
“With its aggressive move, Russia directly challenges the post-Cold War status quo in Eastern Europe and could provide excuses for anyone else claiming to have been treated ‘unfairly,’ by history,” the report said.
Nedos wrote it appears Erdogan’s goal is to indirectly challenge international law and the cornerstones of the European security system, one of which is the Lausanne Treaty – which he doesn’t recognize unless invoking to Turkey’s advantage.
The report said that Greece was particularlyi worried about the mention of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as that refers to the name only Turkey uses for the occupied northern third of Cyprus no other country in the world accepts – allegedly including Russia so far.
That has drawn more worry on Cyprus, especially with Turkey drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters in defiance of soft European Union sanctions, and Erdogan saying he will again send an energy research vessel and warship off Greek islands.
That includes Crete, where the US Navy has a base on Souda Bay and Greece’s renewed military co-operation pact with the United States is seeing a greater American military presence as a bulwark against Turkish aggression.
Russia had been a defender of Cyprus – the island is home to money from wealthy Russians and has a large Russian presence – but now Cyprus is going along with tougher EU sanctions that could see Russia banned from using the SWIFT system of transferring money internationally more easily.
Russia’s “apparent adoption of Turkish arguments is a new and unwelcome development,” the story said, adding that there’s no reason for alarm yet and that Greek officials doubt that – at least for now – Turkey will make moves.
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