“Out of routine” activity in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Sea - MEHMET ACET

“Out of routine” activity in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Sea

Would you believe me if I say the tension with Greece, which has been growing recently in the Kardak shores in the Aegean Sea and in the waters of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea is not “a continuation of routine tensions?”

Let me explain briefly and see what you will say.

Last week, Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar made the following statement which reached Athens with the speed of light:

“We can cover not only Kardak but also the entire Aegean Sea due to the high technology that the Armed Forces has. We have enough power both to carry out an operation in Afrin and to keep the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean under control.”

Isn’t it obvious that those words were addressed to those who thought “As the Turkish Army is fighting in Afrin, can we catch them weak in the Aegean Sea?” in certain circles in Athens?

The words of Hulusi Akar were followed by President Erdogan’s “warning” at his party’s group meeting.

Erdogan said:

“Do not suppose that their search for natural gas off Cyprus and the islets in the Aegean is going unnoticed. We warn those who overstep the mark in Cyprus and the Aegean. For us, Cyprus and Aegean are the same as Afrin.”

The essence of the warning was the same:

“Just because we are currently occupied with our southern borders, do not assume this as a sign of weakness!”

Here I would like to add that Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım had a phone call with his Greek counterpart Tsipras the previous day to decrease the tension which I called “out of routine.”

Why is Athens flushing with anger?

Earlier in this column, I wrote a few pieces saying that the scenarios about getting into war with Turkey started in Greece after July 15, not recently.

That is why I think evaluating the recent tensions in Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean Seas only in the context of Afrin will be misleading.

However, why I see this situation as “out of routine” has another reason:

About 40 days ago, I listened to a high-ranking general who retired after his successful services at high positions of the Turkish Armed Forces.

Let me summarize what I heard:

- We know that those in Greece who say that “There can’t be a better opportunity than this” thinking that the Turkish Armed Forces has weakened due to the coup attempt have been brainstorming since July 15.

- It can be expected that international actors, who want to create a new crisis in Turkey before 2019, set Greece on Turkey by making promises to it.

- This had happened during the Independence War. We fought against the Greek army, but there were other powers behind them.

- The Greek Parliament announced its decision regarding the issue of 12 miles. Even though putting this decision into action was a bit toned down according to our national security political document, it is still enough to be accepted as “a reason for war.”

- Also, there is the issue of 152 islets/rocks which Greece says, “They are all ours” while Ankara deems their status as “undefined.”

One of the main subjects of the recent tensions is comprised of uncertainties in this regard.

I would like to emphasize that I heard this analysis, which has some “off the record” elements, before the Afrin operation started.

In other words, the situation of Athens “flushing with anger” at Turkey is not new.

We must follow and evaluate well the reflexes of the Greek government’s ultra-nationalist little partner.

The importance of keeping dialogue channels open

There has always been a possibility that disputes between Turkey and Greece could turn into close combat.

Let’s not move past without stating that the U.S. ambassador in Athens has touched upon such a possibility recently and said, “It might cause horrifying results.”

Since frictions in the waters of Aegean or dogfights in air have developed in a “routine way” so far, there might be a tendency to evaluate the recent developments in this framework.

But it is not like that this time.

Even if we only take into consideration the words of the president and the chief of General Staff, we can see that this new situation is unusual.

At this point, I find it significant that Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on behalf of Turkey and Tsipras on behalf of Greece should take initiative and keep dialogue channels open.

If you ask why, let’s be honest, it is because that if we make a list of those who want to get into a fight against Turkey in Greece, Tsipras would be at the very bottom of this list.

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