Turkish-Greek tensions: “I’m not kidding”

Status: 06/14/2022 04:15 am

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is demanding the militarization of several Greek islands and is blatantly threatening war. Many Greeks fear that the threats will not stop there.

Verna Shoulder, ART Studio Athens

The Turkish-Greek border is discussed on a Turkish television program broadcast by the state-run private broadcaster Heber Durk. The map of the two countries is visible on the screen in the background. Journalist G├╝rkan Zengin, one of the studio’s guests, stands in front of it holding a mouse in his hand.

He uses Zheng’s stick at the western tip of Turkey’s mainland and draws a vertical line to the south – which he believes is the real border between Greece and Turkey. Corollary: Many Greek islands, such as the Rhode Island and Rhode Island, suddenly become Turkish territory.

The TV clip has been spreading like wildfire on social media in Greece for the past few days. Because what journalist Zengin presented so popularly on television is similar to what has been frequently recreated by top Turkish politicians over the past few days and weeks. The focus of the regional dispute is primarily on the Dodecanese Islands, which include Rhodes, but also other populated islands such as Lesbos, Samos and Kos.

The Turkish-Greek border has actually been regulated for almost 100 years, but the question of sovereignty in the East Aegean is complicated by international law: the Laws (1923) and Paris (1947) treaties, for example, indicate which islands. Assigned to any country, but some islands may not be militarized. In the meantime, the Treaty of Montreux (1936) was formed, which aimed to partially change the Lausanne Treaty. Among other things, Turkey derives its contentious territorial claims from this agreement.

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Embassy in military maneuvers

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan participated in a major military coup in the western Turkish coastal city of Izmir, in which NATO allies were also involved. In his speech, he repeatedly accused Greece of arming the Aegean islands in violation of international law and warned Athens against further militarization.

Athens “avoids dreams, statements and actions that regret it”. Such actions can have “catastrophic consequences” and “I’m not kidding.” Erdogan later published the reports in English and Greek on his Twitter account.

Quiet but alert

In Greece, this is considered a clear threat of war. However, the government has so far remained silent: Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Dentias said at the Southeast European Summit in Thessaloniki that he would not contribute to the expansion with neighboring Turkey by participating in defamatory statements, illegal and inappropriate demands and accusations.

The Greek Foreign Ministry released 16 maps aimed at documenting the “scale of Turkish revisionism”. They are intended to showcase Turkish territorial claims from 1923 to the present.

Clear comment on the other hand: Greek Foreign Minister Tendias, here in conversation with your Turkish envoy Kaushoklu

Image: AFP

Do not militarize now

In view of the threatening gestures coming from the east, Athens confirms that the islands in the eastern Aegean are not militarized. Greece is exercising its right to self-defense as there are numerous landing ships off the west coast of Turkey.

In addition, Turkish warplanes now hover over Greek airspace almost every day and even fly over large populated islands such as Rhodes, Samos and Kos.

A tense feeling

That, and the verbal increase above all else, causes a confusing feeling for many Greeks. Most believe that the Turkish president’s war talks are only part of his campaign strategy. Erdogan has announced that he intends to run again in next year’s presidential election in Turkey.

But Turkey’s economic situation is worse, with inflation hovering above 70 percent, according to official figures. So, as a distraction, why not re-ignite a conflict that has been smoking for decades?

No one really dares to predict how far Erdogan will go. However, the Greeks still remember the late summer of 2020, when Turkish and Greek warships confronted each other in the eastern Mediterranean.

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