Turkish Government Escalates Tension in Aegean Ahead of Elections

This week has seen Turkey escalate tension in the Aegean as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government fights to stay in power ahead of elections scheduled for June 24.

Earlier this week, the Turkish navy in the Aegean was instructed to ‘be ready’ and a bilateral migrant readmission dead with Greece was suspended by Ankara.

According to analysts, Erdogan is trying to appeal to nationalist Turks ahead of the June 24 parliamentary and presidential elections.

The Turkish president’s rhetoric against Greece has been described as part of his election campaign message, used to win over more voters. Polls show that Erdogan has not secured a solid winning percentage yet and could see the presidential vote go to a second round. The closer the elections come, the harsher the rhetoric.

Characteristically, on Wednesday the Turkish president called Greece a “bankrupt” country that is “finished”. Meanwhile, his top officials continue to provoke Greece. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said late on Monday that: “It is our duty to find these putschist soldiers wherever they are, pack them up and bring them to Turkey,” a reference to the eight former Turkish soldiers who were granted political asylum in Greece.

Bozdag also accused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of being a man who does not keep his word, claiming that Tsipras had promised Erdogan to return the eight Turkish fugitives right after they landed in Greece in July 2016.

After the Bozdag statement that Turkey would find the eight soldiers, Greek officials replied that such a move could be considered an act of war.

Ankara has since begun a new barrage of Greek airspace violations by Turkish fighter jets.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that Turkey would suspend its agreement with Greece on the readmission of refugees.

At the same time, a Turkish navy frigate and two missile carriers in the Aegean were ordered to be in a state of increased readiness, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported.