ATHENS – With worry that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won’t back down from heated talk and fear of a conflict with Greece, the United States and Germany are reportedly trying to keep the countries from clashing.
Erdogan is refusing to talk to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, furious that the Greek leader in an address to the US Congress urged lawmakers – without mentioning Turkey – to vote down President Joe Biden’s hope to sell Turkey more F-16 fighter jets.
Those could be used against Greece if there is a conflict, worry rising about the possibility of a “hot incident” that could be accidental or otherwise and have the two NATO allies battling.
In an attempt to prevent that, said Kathimerini, American officials and those in Germany – home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and a major arms supplier to Turkey – are intervening to keep Greece and Turkey apart.
Erdogan has ratcheted up the belligerent talk and keeps sending fighter jets into Greek airspace, said he will send an energy research research vessel off Greek islands, demanded Greece take troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast and said it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles maritime boundaries to 12 miles.
Mitsotakis, refusing to take apparent bait, hasn’t responded in kind and said he wants to keep trying dialogue and diplomacy, which have failed and the Greek and Turkish defense ministers talked on the sidelines of NATO meeting.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met in Berlin with Erdogan’s spokesman and advisor Ibrahim Kalin in a bid to reduce tensions, before the Greek and Turkish defense chiefs – Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Hulusi Akar – chatted despite Erdogan’s breaking off communications between the countries.
Turkey has been conducting large-scale military drills in response to Mitsotakis’ governmenty buying French-made Rafale fighter jets and warships, seeking American gunships and building international alliances.
Greece also renewed a military co-operation deal with the US that is designed to increase an American military presence, further infuriating Erdogan who has responded with more bellicose talk.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has sided with Turkey, calling the country a “valuable ally,” while refusing to intervene over Turkish provocations and then trying to appease Greece, saying it was “pillar of stability” in the region.
Panagiotopoulos and Akar reportedly talked about de-escalating tension, said the paper, although the Turkish defense chief has repeatedly used heated rhetoric to attack Greece.
There’s hope that Erdogan will change his mind and talk to Mitsotakis at a NATO meeting in Madrid from June 29-30 but the paper said there’s little chance that will happen as the Turish leader, facing re-election in 2023 – as is Mitsotakis – needs to save face with his hard-core Conservative base.
Erdogan also said he would veto the hopes of Sweden and Finland to get into NATO after he bought Russian-made S-400 missile systems that undermine the alliance’s security and could be used against Greece.