After Turkey struck a deal with Sweden and Finland, that requires them to change their counter-terrorism laws to suit Ankara and that will thus permit NATO to unanimously issue invitations for them to join the Alliance tomorrow, Athens is focused on whether Erdogan will table his demands for the demilitarisation of Greek Eastern Aegean islands at the ongoing NATO summit.
Erdogan has already stated that he plans to express his annoyance over the creation of a new US base in the Greek port city of Alexandroupolis, enshrined in the amended US-Greece Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement, at a meeting with US President Joe Biden planned for tomorrow, a protest that clearly will be summarily dismissed as it involves core US regional interests.
In expressing his consternation with the US bases in Greece, Erdogan underlined that they target Russia, further bolstering the impression, based on the fact that Turkey is the sole NATO member-state that has imposed no sanctions against Russia, that Ankara has for months been acting as a proxy of Moscow.
“Five plus four, a total of nine American bases have been established in Greece. Well, why did you create them? Against whom have you established them? Their answer is that we created them against Russia. What do you mean when you say, ‘We created them against Russia? Your issue and your only issue is the S-400s [missile systems Turkey purchased from Russia, leading to an effective US arms embargo on Turkey, until now]. You are constantly preoccupied with the S-400s. All of this is verbiage. We will raise these issues in the discussion at the meeting we will have tonight or tomorrow with Biden,” Erdogan declared.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Presidency’s official Twitter account posted: “We have never refrained from taking all the necessary steps to defend our rights in the Mediterranean and Aegean”
Analysts in Greece believe that Erdogan is essentially using his claims against Greece to pressure Washington to proceed with arms sales to Turkey. In his meeting with Biden, he is expected to press for the procurement of 40 F-16 fighter jets, which until now has been blocked due to the S-400s.
It is expected that Erdogan will use his last-minute approval of the admission of Sweden and Finland to NATO as a bargaining chip with the US president.
In his 17 May speech to a Joint Session of the US Congress, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged the legislature not to approve the sale.
The plea so enraged Erdogan that he vowed to never again speak to the Greek PM, a pledge that he intends to keep at least at the summit.
How Erdogan might table claims against Greece
The Greek foreign ministry has been reviewing all possible moves Erdogan may make at the summit, including the prospect that he will raise his standard accusations that Greece is soft on terrorism (Ankara accuses Greece of allowing the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) to engage in propaganda, seek financing, and recruit members in Greece) and that Athens has engaged in deadly refugee and migrant pushbacks in the Aegean.
The second scenario is that Erdogan may table a series of claims against Greece, including his assertion that if Athens does not demilitarise various Aegean islands then their sovereignty is in question and they may revert to Turkey as the Ottoman Empire’s successor state.
Even if Erdogan does not table his claims against Greece at the summit, he is expected to do so in his talks with Biden.
‘Ready for all eventualities’
Ahead of the NATO summit, government spokesman Yannis Economou said that, “We are ready for all eventualities. We are not going [to the summit] with the intention to engage in a skirmish. We are going in order to make a positive contribution to the summit, which is important, as it includes issues such as expansion of the Alliance and the crisis in Ukraine.”
“In all international forums, Greece sends clear messages. We are unrelenting on issues of national sovereignty and sovereign rights, and we are ready at any moment to deconstruct ahistorical arguments from any side. Any provocation will be answered. Our country has steadfast positions,” Economou said.
In response to Turkey’s challenges to Greece’s sovereignty over Aegean islands, the US and the EU recently issued statements supporting respect for Greece’s sovereign rights, as have Germany and France individually.