Turkey is continuing on its abrasive path of antagonizing all neighbours and aggressively pursuing geopolitical claims and territorial expansion. Given the plethora of intersecting major power and regional power rivalries and conflicts in the immediate region Turkey has managed to get away with its schemes up until now, if not always successfully, playing off one rival against another in its pursuit of the most advanced weapons and support for or tolerance of its multiple territorial expansion/ military projection projects. However, it is a very dangerous game, and could result in catastrophe if it continues.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias accused Turkey of undermining security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and violating the sovereignty of Libya, Syria, Iraq and Cyprus, according to a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday. According to the statement:
“Today, following a brief respite due to the pandemic, Turkey has once again declared that its land borders to Europe are open. At the same time, its coastguard escorts boats laden with migrants to the Greek islands. But it also persists in undermining security and stability, as well as peace, in the Eastern Mediterranean. It has caused problems to all its neighbours. It has been continuously violating the sovereignty of Libya, Syria, Iraq and our EU partner, the Republic of Cyprus.” LINK
Earlier in the day Dendias went with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell to the town of Kastanies in Greece’s Evros region, close to the border with Turkey.
Dendias alleged that about four months ago the Turkish government started a disinformation campaign actively encouraging people to cross the border with Greece, remarking that, “This deplorable attempt to blackmail the EU into concessions failed.”
Dendias and Borrell toured the Kastanies border crossing in the Evros region where thousands of migrants seeking to cross into the EU from Turkey had gathered in late February.
“It’s very clear that we are determined to protect the external borders of the European Union and to strongly support Greece’s sovereignty,” Borrell said.
The EU foreign policy chief said his visit to Greece had been planned but had been pushed forward after recent incidents involving Turkey “in order order to show our solidarity and to show how much we share your concerns.” LINK
Moreover, Turkey has been violating Greece’s national airspace and territorial waters daily, including over flights of inhabited areas in Evros and the Aegean Sea by armed warplanes. Turkey is also pushing ahead with its drilling operations in what Cyprus claims to be its exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean and violating the UN arms embargo of Libya in pursuit of its expansionist ambitions.
After cataloguing Greece’s list of objections, Dendias added that Greece is open to dialogue, noting however that it is not prepared to negotiate under duress or help legitimize Turkey’s persistent violations of international laws and norms.
Relations between the two countries have long been strained by border tensions and Turkey’s oil and gas exploration plans in the Mediterranean. In the latest standoff, the Turkish Petroleum Corporation announced plans to receive drilling rights in areas considered by Greece to be a part of its continental shelf and Athens slammed the move. Turkey’s drilling plans were encouraged by the signing of a controversial deal on maritime boundaries with Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, which the Greek government denounced as another attempt to usurp Greece’s sovereign rights and territory. Cyprus and Egypt also strongly condemned the agreement. Greece, Cyprus, Egypt are Israel are planning to build a pipeline carrying gas to Europe through part of the affected area.
In an op-ed published by Greek newspaper Kathimerini on Tuesday, Henri J. Barkey, a professor at LeHigh University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that:
Signs point to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan adopting a strategy developed by “arch-nationalist” military officials called the “Blue Homeland”.
The military doctrine “envisages the domination of the Aegean, most of the Mediterranean and of the Black Sea”, which Barkey says is the reason Turkey has invested in expanding and updating its navy.
Barkey cited cases of Turkey’s expanding regional footprint in Syria, where a series of Turkish military operations have been carried out to battle armed Kurdish forces that Ankara considers threats to national security.
“Turkish victories in Syria and Libya have been made possible by Washington and Europe’s unwillingness to stand up to Erdoğan, which only feeds his sense of invincibility,” he said.
Erdoğan’s confidence in earlier military activities in the region could inspire him to “decide this is a good time to challenge Greece”, an endeavour that would gain the president public support in Turkey, Barkey said, adding that “The Blue Homeland doctrine makes it clear that Turkey does not recognize the post-World War I arrangements over the Aegean”. LINK
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