What is Ankara up to?

At a time when NATO is trying to form a united front against Russian aggression, Turkey is stepping up its rhetoric against Greece. Photo credit: AMNA

Turkey has recently upped the ante in provocations against Greece, raising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean at a time when the two supposed NATO allies are expected to show unity over the Russian threat to Ukraine.

Greece issued a diplomatic protest on Thursday, or demarcheto Turkey over the continued provocations by Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, who have questioned the sovereignty of the Aegean Islands.

Turkey will ‘amplify anti-Greece rhetoric’

dr Athanasios Drougos, a diplomat and defense analyst, narrates Greek reporter that he expects Turkey to escalate its rhetoric against Greece in the coming weeks and months.

“Turkey wants to broaden the agenda of its demands against Greece. It aims to tie the issue of island militarization into a broader set of demands, including the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the status of islands like Kastellorizo ​​and Greek right to extend sovereign waters in the Aegean.”

Drougos says Ankara is putting together a package of demands on various issues it has had with Greece over the past 40 years to present Athens to the international community as a criminal state that is systematically violating international treaties.

Grecian Delight supports Greece

“I expect Turkey to step up its provocative stance towards Greece in the coming months. Its rhetoric will be more hostile and it will try to take the package of demands to international forums, including perhaps the UN Security Council and NATO,” says the Greek defense analyst.

He notes that many defense analysts in Athens are concerned that Turkey could jump at the opportunity to launch a limited military operation in the Aegean at a time when NATO is busy with Ukraine and Russia.

Drougos does not share this view. He believes that Turkey’s provocations against Greece will only intensify rhetorically with an international audience in mind. As he points out, “Turkey has been told by the US and NATO not to take their rhetoric too far.”

International Treaties and the Greece-Turkey Dispute

On Tuesday, Turkish President Erdogan warned Greece against attempts to arm the Aegean islands. “It is not possible for us to remain silent about the military activities carried out in violation of the agreements on the islands with disarmed status,” Erdogan said.

Greece took over the islands of Limnos, Samothraki, Lesbos, Samos, Chios and Ikaria from the Ottoman Empire in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. In the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, she was officially granted sovereignty over them.

Another treaty, drawn up in London in 1914, had made Greek possession of the islands conditional on their demilitarization. Turkey says that since the Lausanne Treaty refers to the 1914 treaty, it implies the same conditionality.

Turkey also says the islands’ demilitarization is also enshrined in the 1947 Treaty of Paris, when Italy ceded full sovereignty of the Dodecanese islands to Greece.

Greece rejects all Turkish demands. Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias made it clear in Moscow on Friday that the agreement on the demilitarization of the Dodecanese does not affect Turkey, but the concerns of the then Soviet Union.

“The Soviet Union was the beneficiary of demilitarization, Turkey is not a signatory to the treaty and therefore does not derive any rights from it,” Dendias said.

Turkey poses a real threat to the Greek islands

Drougos says that despite the legal arguments and interpretation of international law, Turkey poses a real threat to the Greek islands of the east Aegean and under the UN charter Greece has the right to defend its territory.

“Given the experience Greece has had with Turkey in Cyprus and other incidents against Greek islands in the Aegean, it has decided to station some military units on the islands. Brigade-strength troops were stationed on the islands of Rhodes, Lesvos, Chios, Kos and Samos.”

However, he adds that there is no heavy military equipment in use that could pose a real threat to Turkey.

The opposite happens, he argues. Turkey has a large force stationed opposite the Greek islands – the 4th Army, based in Izmir – which has offensive capabilities and frequently conducts exercises involving sea landing scenarios.

Drougos says Greece is planning its own diplomatic “counterattack” in the face of Turkish provocations. He notes that Athens’ recent diplomatic protests against Turkey include a whole range of issues that go beyond the militarization of islands.

These include Turkey’s 1995 threat to go to war with Greece – the so-called “casus belli” – if Athens exercises its legal right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, the illegal Turkish-Libyan memorandum on maritime zones and the ” Blue home” rhetoric.

The Foreign Ministry also instructed the Greek embassies to the European Union, NATO and members of the UN Security Council to inform them of Turkey’s escalating activities.


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