ATHENS – Greece has beaten Turkey, warning that it will press sanctions against its neighbor if it continues with its “hostile” and “provocative threats”. The warning from Athens comes as the leaders of the two NATO allies, age-old enemies, prepare to meet to accelerate talks aimed at easing tensions over the past year over energy rights in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean . The chances of a breakthrough are bleak.
It was this remark by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that caused critical eyebrows in Athens.
He said Turkey was ready to defend territories once held by the Ottomans … and that a series of military exercises in the Aegean Sea recently made Greece … a “hostile” state, as he put it … both fear and fear worried about Turkey’s options like that.
Following this threat, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar later called on Greece to comply with international agreements and scrap missiles and military equipment stationed on a number of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea just a few miles off Turkey’s west coast.
The Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias rejected the request with a sharp warning.
Greece has long supported Turkey’s accession to the European Union. But if Ankara failed to tone down its “hostile” actions and “provocative” rhetoric, Athens was ready to renew its call for EU sanctions against its neighboring state and NATO allies.
Greece and Turkey resume talks on maritime disputes in the Mediterranean under pressure from the EU and NATO
Talks between Athens and Ankara failed in 2016 after 12 years of insignificant progress
Greece and Turkey have been in conflict for decades and are mutually challenging each other’s maritime and air rights on the Aegean. But when huge oil and gas reserves were discovered in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years, the two enemies fought over their rights to explore and develop these energy reserves.
The stalemate was so intense that both sides came to the brink of war last year when two Greek and Turkish frigates nearly collided in a dangerous hunt for drilling rights in disputed parts of the Aegean and Mediterranean that separate the two countries.
When tensions flared dangerously at the time, the US State Department intervened to push the two sides to the negotiating table to ease the energy conflict. Washington remains involved in the process, but the talks have achieved little so far.
However, on a recent visit by the Turkish Foreign Minister here, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis agreed to meet with Erdogan to try to kickstart peace talks. The high-level meeting is scheduled for June 14 on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels.
“What we have seen in the last few weeks is a kind of kinetic energy from both sides to talk to each other. So you are ready to talk to each other at the highest political level. But that does not mean that the talks will be fruitful.” This is a completely different story because the differences are there, they are diachronic and the demands from both sides are contradicting. So I’m optimistic that both sides are ready to defuse tensions, but I don’t think this is an opportunity to solve the problems on their own. “
However, other experts concede that engaging both sides in the peace process may be enough to buy valuable time, temper tempers, and reduce the likelihood of an accident that could spark a potential war and serious split within the NATO military alliance could.