Fellow NATO members Greece and Turkey appear to be on the brink of clashing over disputed islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, but the reason for the present tension isn't limited to a few rocks.
00:00 / 00:00
Reports have streamed in over the past week that a Turkish naval vessel was menacingly circling around disputed islets in what many interpreted as blatant intimidation and warmongering. The historical dispute between Athens and Ankara over these territories predates the establishment of Turkey as a country and occasionally flares up to the forefront of regional politics. This time around, however, there’s a lot more bubbling below the surface than initially meets the eye.
© PHOTO: PIXABAY
'Violation of Int'l Law': Turkey Warns Greece Over Military Drills on Kos Island
In the days preceding the provocation, Greece declared that it would not extradite eight rogue Turkish servicemen who fled in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt against Erdogan; critics argue that remanding the fugitives would be tantamount to complicity in their execution. On the other hand, Turkey warned that this action would have serious consequences for bilateral relations, and in hindsight, it’s plausible that the latest naval tensions between the two neighbors over the Aegean islands is among the responses that Ankara had in mind all along.
An additional bone of contention between the longstanding regional rivals is the immigrant deal signed between Ankara and Brussels last year, which some experts believe could be endangered by the present bilateral dispute between Turkey and Greece. The weather is about to warm up in the coming months and create favorable conditions for large-scale illegal migration to Europe. Knowing this, Turkey might hold out the deal that it reached with the EU as a bargaining chip in pressuring Brussels to force Athens to make concessions. There’s also the larger trend of Turkey becoming more independently assertive in general under President Erdogan, be it through the unprecedented consolidation of executive power, its decisive pivot towards Russia and Iran following the coup, or its recent game of hardball with the West.
Given this visible trajectory, the recent Greek-Turkish naval tensions begin to look like part of a bigger power play representing ambitions much grander than the desire to command a few tiny islands off the Anatolian coast.
To discuss this issue in more detail, we are happy to be joined by Serap Balaman, Turkish political commentator and Evans Agelissopoulos, Greek political commentator.