ANKARA – Turkish politicians, including his opponents, are rallying around President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in stoking fire against Greece during a time of rising tension, some suggesting invading Greek islands near the coast.
His major rival, CHP party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, joined a chorus of Erdogan supporters after Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would challenge the sovereignty of some Greek islands unless troops were taken off them, said the paper Kathimerini.
Cavusoglu cited the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that ceded away islands whose return Erdogan openly admitted he covets, although Turkey doesn’t recognize the treaty the foreign chief used as a basis to confront Greece.
Kilicdaroglu called on Erdogan and his coalition government with Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli to further push provocations against Greece and its islands and even consider taking them back.
Greece’s New Democracy government, the paper said, believes Erdogan’s growing belligerance is tied to a hard pre-election campaign in Turkey and not to give an advantage to opposition parties who are nationalist.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he wants to keep trying diplomacy and dialogue to settle disputes between the countries over the rights to the seas even though Erdogan said he will no longer talk to the Greek leader.
Erdogan said he was upset that Mitsotakis, while in the United States, urged the US Congress in an address to vote down President Joe Biden’s hopes to sell Turkey more F-16’s and upgrade the Turkish air fleet.
Cavusoglu went as far as presenting a map of 16 islands whose sovereignty could be challenged by Turkey with no united response from the European Union to which Greece belongs and which Turkey has been trying fruitlessly to join since 2005, prospects worsening under Erdogan.
Kilicdaroglu made his comments in response to a series of public questions posed by Erdogan, questioning his patriotism and one was about relations with Greece, the report said.
“Are you with Turkey or not in its efforts to create permanent economic zones along the border in the Mediterranean and the Aegean?” Erdogan asked, with Kilicdaroglu tweeting back that it “is imperative to increase the pressure in the Mediterranean and the Aegean.”
He went on to say it is not enough for Turkey to send out a ship then withdraw it and “wishing (US President Joe) Biden would call me,” unclear what that was about although Erdogan – who had withdrawn an energy research vessel and warship near the Greek island of Kastellorizo – said they would be sent back again.
Kilicdaroglu also urged Erdogan to get even tougher on Cyprus where Turkey seized the northern third in two unlawful 1974 invasions, still occupied by Turkish-Cypriots and where Turkey keeps a 35,000-strong army.
“We will support you,” he said, Kilicdaroglu and opposition parties having been blistered by pro-government media for “expressing the positions of Greece,” and not going jingoistic.
Kilicdaroglu’s position on Greek-Turkish relations is influential as he is considered one of Erdogan’s potential rivals in the 2023 Presidential election and the President’s nationalist stance is also being backed by other major political leaders in the country, whose name will soon become Turkiye.
Other Turkish leaders with a hard line on foreign policy are IYI (Good) Party leader Meral Aksene and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas, who is now a member of the CHP and rumored as potential candidate for president.
Turkey’s media said that Mitsotakis’ visit to the Dodecanese islands of Kos, Pserimos and Astypalaia was a sideshow with EU encouragement although he had trouble getting tbe bloc’s support against Erdogan’s refusal to talk to him.
“The Europeans gave a push to Mitsotakis who is putting up a show,” the prominent Hurriyet newspaper said, adding that “no sooner had (Mitsotakis) returned to his country, than he visited the militarized islands.”
“Mitsotakis visited the islands that must be demilitarized,” the pro-government Aksam said and Rear Admiral Cihat Yayci, formerly chief of staff of the Turkish Naval Forces Command, questioned Greek sovereignty over Pserimos, a small island between Kos and Kalymnos.
Speaking on the pro-government Ηaber Global TV channel, Yayci said that Pserimos “is one of 152 islands, islets and rocky formations that were not ceded to Greece via treaties.”
“These islands are under ‘Egeaydak’ status,” he said, meaning that their sovereignty is disputed. Greece disputes all the claims.