The escalation of tensions near the Imia islets and in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), by the dangerous and unpredictable Mr. Erdogan, is leading Greek-Turkish relations into a new period of turbulence.
From the inflammatory rhetoric over the last weeks, we moved to the ramming of the Greek Coast Guard Ship and the direct threats from the Turkish president himself.
Even as Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was assuring Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that the incident did not occur by design, the Turkish foreign ministry was ‘incorporating’ the Imia islets into Turkish territory.
Obviously, 22 years after the dramatic events of the Imia crisis, Turkey loses no opportunity to provoke and question the sovereignty status of the islets.
With the imperial powers that Erdogan assumed after the abortive coup attempt against him, and after he leveled his opponents and any democratic institutions that existed in Turkey, he is behaving as if he were the sultan of the broader region.
He invaded Syria to smash the Kurds, without success for the time being. He is challenging his country’s traditional alliances. Now, he is opening a front with Greece.
There can be no doubt that the Turkish president is a dangerous and ruthless leader. He will not hesitate to adopt extreme nationalist rhetoric and practices, in order to transcend the problems he faces and to rally his supporters.
He is using his provocations in the Aegean, and around Cyprus, due to the ongoing hydrocarbons exploration, as a lever to pressure Nato, the US, and Europe in his efforts to pursue and secure a broader role in the southeastern Mediterranean.
Greece cannot ignore his provocations. But it also should not fall into his trap, by adopting aggressive rhetoric, such as that of Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, who appears to have disappeared of late.
Calmly, and true to the national strategy, Greece is obliged to seek support in the country’s international alliances, while highlighting Turkish aggressiveness.
The government has a duty to inform the opposition and not to repeat the tactics followed during the long history of the FYROM naming issue.
Understanding and consensus on major national issues is not only mandatory, but also absolutely necessary, as much as that might not facilitate the polarised and divisive climate that has arisen.