ANKARA – After declaring he wants a step back toward diplomacy from aggression against Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doubled down on the tough talk and provocations, going after Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and sending fighter jets into Greek airspace.
“I sincerely believe that as two neighboring countries we can resolve our issues through a direct and constructive dialogue,” he said in comments during a reception for the ambassadors of all European Union member-states, said Kathimerini.
Turkey’s bid to join the bloc, which began in 2005, has seen prospects worsen under Erdogan, especially in the wake of a failed 2016 coup attempt against him as he purged civil society, the courts, education sector and jailed dozens of journalists.
He’s also sent warships and an energy research vessel around Greek islands to hunt for oil and gas and defied soft EU sanctions for Turkish ships already drilling of Cyprus – which Turkey doesn’t recognize and bars its ships and planes.
Erdogan has been irked that the EU is siding with Greece and been trying to separate Greece and Turkey relations from those with the bloc although he humiliated European Commission Ursula von der Leyen when she came to Ankara and he made her stand during a meeting.
“Some (EU) members must abandon their efforts to resolve their problems with Turkey through the path of the Union,” he said, noting that a 62bd round of exploratory talks between and Greece began in 2021 – but promptly failed.
The volatile Erdogan – seen trying to distract attention from his country’s crumbling economy – has turned toward a softer approach with the EU while alternating between belligerence and diplomacy with Greece.
Turkey has also insisted on the demilitarization of Greek islands near Turkey’s coast under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne – which Turkey doesn’t recognize and blamed Greece for the tension between the countries.
Erdogan displayed his tough side again when he attacked Sakellaropoulou for citing the genocide of Pontic Greeks a century ago by Turks, which Turkey said never happened despite widespread historical evidence.
“These allegations do not change the very fact that it was Greece that attempted to invade and occupy Anatolia, and that the Greek army committed barbaric crimes against humanity, especially against innocent civilians in the Western Anatolian region,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
The Greek Foreign Ministry responded saying that Turkey “unfortunately, once again distorts reality and hides not only what happened in the past but also its ongoing policy, which violates international law on a daily basis, creating tensions and poisoning the climate between the two countries.”
Sakellaropoulou had said that the “tragic end” of the Pontic Greek presence in Anatolia, “with the methodical and systematic genocide with persecutions, massacres, attempts at violent Islamization and unspeakable barbarism, uprooted them from their ancestral homes,” the paper reported.