In an ongoing war of nerves between Turkey and Greece, bilateral relations have again plummeted between the two NATO members and supposed allies.
Greek Defence Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos recently emphasized his country’s “readiness for military conflict with Turkey.”
In the latest in a long line of incidents between the two countries, last week a Greek navy ship attempted to inspect a cargo vessel off the Libyan coast but a Turkish military escort refused access. Turkey has also increased flights by its fighter jets into Greek airspace in recent times.
In another major factor affecting relations between the two countries, Greece has protested against Turkish drilling plans in 24 locations in the Mediterranean Sea that it considers Greek territory.
In a statement, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias warned that Athens would retaliate if Ankara begins drilling in the areas claimed by Greece. At the Delphi Economic Forum on June 11, Greek Deputy National Security Adviser Thanos Dokos pushed for greater regional cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean.
A controversial maritime deal concluded between Turkey and Libya’s ‘Government of National Accord’ last November has also caused alarm. It permits Ankara to explore the Mediterranean seabed, including several Greek islands.
However, experts do not expect immediate military confrontation between the two countries. Paul Antonopoulos, an expert on Turkish-Greek relations, says the situation will remain a war of words.
“Since Greece won its independence from the Ottoman Empire, there have been four major wars between the Greeks and Turks, with Greece always being the one to first declare the war. Athens has already said it does not want war but will only respond to Turkish-initiated aggression,” he told Arab News. He added: “It is unlikely that (President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan will declare war, especially as Turkey is militarily over-extended in Syria and Libya and is facing an economic crisis.
Athens has also suggested that the International Court of Justice at The Hague be used to resolve the maritime issue, but Ankara does not recognize its authority. It is through international law that Greece and Turkey can resolve the maritime issue, however Ankara does not recognize any of the internationally recognized means to do so.” LINK
The two deals signed by Turkey and the ‘Government of National Accord’ in Libya last November on maritime boundaries and military cooperation also angered Turkey’s other regional neighbours.
The pro-government Turkish outlet Daily Sabah said the country’s maritime borders with its “neighbour” now extend from Turkey’s southwest coast to the Derna-Tobruk coast of Libya.
Turkey is not a signatory to the 1982 United Nations convention regulating maritime boundaries and does not recognize the southern Republic of Cyprus and its agreements for an exclusive economic zone clash with the territorial claims of Greece, Egypt, Lebanon and Israel.
Turkey says it is operating in waters on its own continental shelf, or areas where the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has rights.
Greece and Turkey have long argued claims to oil and gas reserves off the disputed island of Cyprus. The conflict has intensified in recent times, with Turkish drilling operations drawing accusations of “bullying” from Cyprus and EU sanctions.
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