ANKARA – A break in tensions between the countries after a deadly earthquake in Turkey that saw Greece respond with humanitarian aid is being upset by Greece’s Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Turkey’s pro-government newspaper said.
The Daily Sabah, essentially a mouthpiece for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who threatened and invasion before the earthquake struck and led to a temporary rapprochement, complained about what Panagiotopoulos told Greece’s state-run broadcaster ERT.
“Our ongoing aid efforts to Türkiye should be a humanitarian duty. We don’t have any other agenda,” Panagiotopoulos told the network, which the newspaper took as an indication that so-called Earthquake Diplomacy is already easing.
It said Panagiotopoulos’ comment showed he was less optimistic that relations would get better between the countries after Erdogan also demanded Greece take troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast.
While the earthquake aftermath got Erdogan talking again to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after breaking off communications with him, the newspaper said that “Greece’s ambitious re-armament program remains a pricking issue between the neighbors.”
That was in reference to Greece buying French-made Rafale fighter jets an warships and making a mutual defense pact with that country and building foreign alliances against Turkish provocations.
Greece also wants to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets denied Turkey after Erdogan approved purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defenses that could be used against Greece and undercuts the security of NATO.
In response, Turkey got a promise from US President Joe Biden to buy more F-16 fighter jets and upgrade the Turkish Air Force but Mitsotakis, in a May 2022 address to the US Congress, asked lawmakers to veto it.
Erdogan is also upset that Greece renewed a military cooperation deal with the United States that will see an expanded military presence, including bases, in Greece and a buildup of the port of Alexandroupoli near Turkey’s border.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias visited Turkey in the wake of the quake and the atmosphere was warm with Turkey’s defense chief Mevlut Cavusoglu who had often been belligerent toward Greece previously.
“Despite both countries gearing up for general elections, which limits the prospects of making long-term progress, it’s possible to restart negotiations on confidence-building measures or explanatory talks,” Dendias told Greece’s SKAI TV.
“For me, the main task right now is not finding solutions but protecting the positive climate,” the Greek diplomat noted, adding that he hopes the aftermath of the earthquake won’t see the tensions renewed.