Turkey’s irritation with Greece’s actions

Ankara is not hiding its annoyance with actions taken by Greece, and it is constantly attacking Athens for its behaviour, in an intense, sometimes threatening manner.

I will mention some of the most recent cases. Last September, the focus was on the EU Mediterranean Summit (EUMED 9) in Athens, which was attended by Greece, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Cyprus and Malta, as well as the European Commission through its president, Ursula von der Leyen. Turkey was incensed by statements from some leaders, as well as the joint communique.

A few weeks ago it reacted negatively – even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan commented on it – to the growing presence and use of the northern port city of Alexandroupoli by the United States.

Last week, the annoyance focused on Athens’ “insistence” on participating in a conference on Libya organised by French President Emmanuel Macron, to which Cyprus was also invited.

Just a few days ago similar displeasure was expressed with respect to the meeting in Athens by the foreign ministers of Greece, France, Egypt and Cyprus.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that, “unable to digest the key role Turkey plays in ensuring peace and stability in the region and immediate surroundings, Greece’s attempts to rival Turkey on every issue, preferring tension over cooperation and trying to create artificial alliances against Turkey, are futile efforts.”

Obviously, Ankara believes that only Turkey can guarantee security, peace and stability in the region. It seems as a rather strange view, judging by its behaviour so far, which shows anything but an intention to work in this direction. 

On the contrary, in the context of its effort to increase its regional role – something that would be understood by all if it did not create problems with almost all the countries in the region – it constantly expresses annoyance, reacts negatively, and behaves threateningly.

It is not only the rhetorical – and often real – provocations in the Aegean, nor the violation of Cyprus’ sovereign rights. There are also the tensions with Egypt and with Israel, the signing of an illegal memorandum with Tripoli that violates the sovereign rights of third countries, the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya and the operations in Syria.

Obviously, it is not Greece, Cyprus, the rest of the Mediterranean EU member-states, or other important third countries that are destabilising the region – it is actually Turkey.

If Ankara really wants to be part of the solution and a stabilising factor in the region, it has no choice but to change its behaviour.

It has to abandon its expansionist views and approach the other countries in a spirit of cooperation and peaceful coexistence, while accepting that it will be part of a common framework governed by the principles of international law and the rules of good-neighbourliness. It’s as simple as that.

(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)

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