ANKARA — A truce – often broken – for summer between Greece and Turkey not to taunt each other so as not to scare off tourists needed for their countries economies hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic has frayed further.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who temporarily suspended plans to hunt for energy off Greek islands, accused Greece of accelerating its “maximalist policies” and raising tension in the Aegean, while calling on Athens to avoid any “unilateral actions,” said Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.
That came after Turkey, which regularly violates Greek airspace and waters with fighter jets and warships – claimed the air and skies as its own – blamed Greece for provocations although Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hasn't taken the bait.
During a video message to a conference on the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean in Izmir – the old Greek city of Smyrna – Erdogan said that “instead of making a meaningful contribution to our well-meaning efforts, Greece has accelerated its maximalist policies,” not indicating what he meant.
He also referred to the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis for both countries, Turkey holding some 4.4 million but allowing human traffickers to keep sending them to five Greek islands during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
Erdogan said that, “While the refugee crisis could have led to cooperation between the two countries, this historical opportunity was wasted due to Greece’s uncompromising attitude,” the paper reported.
On border issues related to the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean where Turkey is staking claims to waters, he claimed that Turkey has “taken care not to be the party that increases the tension until now,” although it has.
“We acted calmly in the face of the violation of the non-military status of the islands in the maritime jurisdiction areas and in the steps of our neighbor Greece… which increased the tension. We gave priority to solving our problems through dialogue and negotiation,” Erdogan said, who has also been bellicose.
At the same country, Defense Minster Hulusi Akar took shots at Greece and Cyprus, saying that Turkey would take “every necessary step” to protect the rights of Turkish-Cypriots in the occupied north of the island.
“No project that ignores and disrespects Turkey’s and Turkish-Cypriots’ rights in the Mediterranean can succeed,” he said, the paper added, Turkey's plans to keep drilling after rejecting an offer by the Cypriot government to share 30 percent of energy revenues with the Turkish side.
“We will carry on our activities in areas where we have rights,” Akar said, referring to energy plans off the coast of Cyprus, adding that Turkey has given up the idea of reunifying the island divided by unlawful Turkish invasions in 1974.
Instead, Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriot self-declared government that no other country in the world recognizes has demanded recognition for the isolated territory, which the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government has rejected.
He said Greece's plans to extend its maritime waters are “empty dreams,” after Turkey said that would be a cause for war, adding to the tension between them that still continues.