Fears that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will “test” the strength of the just ratified Greco-French agreement by escalating tensions in the Aegean Sea or the Eastern Mediterranean, worries Athens.
Report that the research vessel Oruc Reis conducts “exploration work” north of Cyprus, also testifies to Turkey’s intentions.
Turkey’s President finds himself in a difficult position after recent events as Athens is gaining a military strength through acquisitions three newest frigates, and six additional Rafale fighters, bringing the total number of fighters to 24. There are also reports that in the future Greece will receive 3 more corvettes and 1 frigate, which will significantly change the balance of power in the region.
The clause of the mutual assistance agreement with Paris was widely disseminated in the Turkish media.
Beyond the strategic nature of the deal with France, Greece is strengthening ties with Washington amid the upcoming five-year extension of the Mutual Defense and Cooperation Agreement (MDCA).
On the other hand, Erdogan is still trying to mend relations with the Biden administration, which have deteriorated further after Donald Trump’s departure from the presidency. Also, Angela Merkel is leaving her post, who knew how to calm and support Erdogan, and good relations with her successor remain only in the field of speculation. At the same time, relations with the president of the only European nuclear power, Emanuel Macron, have been utterly spoiled, and Erdogan himself is facing serious problems inside Turkey.
In this sense, there are concerns about the possibility that Erdogan will try to increase tensions in relations with countries, returning to his 2020 position in order to deploy massive anti-Greek propaganda in society and once again trying to rally the people in front of the Greeks who encroached on “Blue homeland”… Eliminating political competitors in one go and once again “tightening the screws” within society.
The most dangerous scenario, however, is Turkey’s deployment of a floating drilling rig in areas where Oruc Reis previously conducted research. He can send fishing boats to the territorial waters of Greece in the disputed regions. The Greek Embassy in Ankara recently protested against illegal fishing Turkish fishing vessels accompanied by the Turkish coast guard, but they answered that this is their territory, which means that the claims of the Greek side are groundless.
Moreover, Turkey decided to revive the problem of “demilitarization” Greek islands in the eastern part of the Aegean, going so far that in a letter to her permanent representative to the UN she stated that demilitarization was a condition of Greek sovereignty over them.
We are talking about islands Lemnos, Samothrace, Chios, Tilos, Samos, Halki. Turkey claims that, in accordance with international law, Greece has no right to deploy troops in a total of 23 islands belonging to it in the Aegean Sea. The list includes: Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Ikaria, Lemnos, Samothrace, as well as the Dodecanese islands – Astypalea, Rhodes, Halki, Karpathos, Kasos, Tilos, Nisyros, Kalymnos, Agafonisi, Leros, Lei, Pserimos, Patmos, Simi, Kos and Kastelorizo.
Greece, for its part, states that the provisions of the Lausanne Treaty, which Turkey refers to, were canceled by treaties signed after World War II.
The enmity between the two neighbors is rooted in the distant past, but every day it takes on new forms. The next stage in the escalation of tensions was the discovery in 2011 of the Aphrodite gas field in the Cyprus EEZ. At the same time, Ankara stated that the distribution of the island’s natural resources must be consistent with the satellite – the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Since the spring of 2019, Turkish ships have regularly entered the Cypriot territorial waters and carried out illegal exploration work. The Greek fleet tried to oppose this work, after which the Turkish research ships began to go out under the escort of Turkish warships.
Several times the situation almost reached the point of real military clashes. The greatest moment of exacerbation was damage by Greek frogmen equipment on the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis, which led to the curtailment of exploration of the seabed, as well as “bulk” Greek frigate “Lemnos” to the Turkish frigate “Kemal Reis”, which almost contributed to the start of full-fledged hostilities.
The situation escalated again after the Turkish fleet became oppose work research vessel Nautical geoflying the Maltese flag, which was supposed to conduct exploration of the route of the East Med pipeline.