Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Tensions between Turkey and Greece lead to a breakdown in dialogue

Written by Marie-Cécile Audibert on Wednesday, May 25th 2022 à 12:05 | Read 240 times

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided not to speak to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis who has asked the Americans not to deliver F-16s to Turkey. This is a new quarrel as Athens complains about Turkish fighter jets flying over its airspace.

US President Joe Biden and the Greek Prime Minister discussed current events in the Eastern Mediterranean (Photo: Greek Prime Minister's Office)
US President Joe Biden and the Greek Prime Minister discussed current events in the Eastern Mediterranean (Photo: Greek Prime Minister's Office)
TURKEY / GREECE. "He no longer exists for me (...) I will never agree to meet him." These definitive words, if that qualifier is appropriate for diplomatic relations, were uttered on Monday evening, 23 May 2022, by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish president was targeting Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. After a small thaw in the still high tensions between the two countries, and even the beginnings of a dialogue, the rupture seems to be complete. In any case, unilaterally and intuiti personae since the Turkish head of state adds, "we will continue our journey with honourable political leaders."

Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not appreciate what the head of the Greek government had said during his visit to Washington. "We had agreed not to involve third countries in our dispute with him (...) Despite this, last week he went to the United States and spoke to Congress and warned them that they should not give us F-16s," he said. Before admitting, "I don't think the US will make a decision based on what Mitsotakis said."

In the wake of this, Ankara decided to cancel the meeting of the future Turkey-Greece Strategic Council.

Turkish fighters in Greek skies

Three days before this statement, Tanju Bilgich accused Athens of "trying, once again, to turn the international community against our country by using the tensions it has created with its provocative actions." The Turkish Foreign Minister's representative referred to a statement by the Greek Foreign Minister that "two Turkish fighter planes illegally entered Greek airspace".

The planes were reported to have approached Alexandroupolis, in north-eastern Greece, near the Greek-Turkish border, "at a distance of only 2.5 nautical miles", according to the Greek ministry, which described the act as an "unprecedented violation of Greek sovereignty". The port city is used by NATO to transfer tanks and other heavy military equipment to Eastern European countries and Ukraine. The Greek ministry considers that this overflight "undermines NATO's cohesion and immediate priorities, and is also a clear threat to the European Union at a critical time, since the port of Alexandroupolis is a key transport hub for strengthening the allies".

It should be remembered that Greece, like Turkey, is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation...

Permanent disagreement on borders

In his speech to Congress on 17 May 2022, the Greek Prime Minister insisted: "I want to be absolutely clear. We will not accept open acts of aggression that violate our sovereignty and territorial rights. This includes the overflights of the Greek islands, which must stop immediately."

At the root of these conflicts is an ongoing disagreement over the delineation of air and sea borders (as the Turkish oil drilling affair in the Mediterranean has shown) between the two countries. Added to this are the problems of migrants. Despite a 2016 agreement with the European Union on the subject accompanied by financial compensation, Turkey does not hesitate to open the floodgates to exert pressure.

For example, on Monday 23 May 2022, the Greek coastguard prevented nine sailing boats and dinghies carrying a total of some 600 migrants from crossing the Aegean Sea by warning their Turkish counterparts. The vessels were coming from Turkey and were near the Greek islands of Chios and Samos, but "inside Turkish territorial waters", said a spokesman for the Greek military.

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