Why Turkey’s New Provocation is the Most Dangerous Yet



Oruc Reis. Credit: AMNA

As the Turkish seismic vessel Oruc Reis has once again entered Greece’s continental shelf — accompanied by warships — Athens sees Turkey‘s new provocation as the end of any possibility for exploratory talks that the two countries had agreed to recently.

Not that Athens had any faith in Ankara’s call for exploratory talks to begin with. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has never ceased his hostile rhetoric against Greece while he tries to appear diplomatic in his dealings with the European Union, NATO and other international organizations.

In the past months, Ankara’s call for diplomacy and negotiations has always been accompanied by violations of Greece’s continental shelf and airspace and Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). So asking the Greek government to sit down at the table to discuss crucial issues regarding territorial waters in the Aegean was essentially blackmail.

It is characteristic of Turkey’s aggressive behavior that every time — and there were many — Turkey acted provocatively against Greece and Cyprus, it always blamed Greece for raising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Only yesterday, Erdogan had a telephone conversation with President of the European Council Charles Michel in which he once again accused Greece of generating tension in the region.

According to the executive director of the Institute of International Relations, Konstantinos Filis, Turkey’s latest act is to blackmail not only Greece but the EU as well. It is an act that blatantly torpedoes even the slightest opportunity for exploratory talks.

Despite the fact that only days ago the two foreign ministers agreed to dialogue between the neighbouring countries, this new violation of Greek territorial waters by the Turkish ships blows away any possibility for peaceful talks.

Upon this new violation of the territorial waters of a European Union member state, on Monday Germany merely issued a limp-wristed warning against Turkey, calling the provocative act “not prudent.”

Previously, the EU had postponed the decision to impose sanctions on Turkey until December — but this only gave Erdogan a two-month window to continue his pirate moves in the Aegean. By now, it is more than obvious that — once again — Germany is allowing Turkey to continue to act as the Eastern Mediterranean bully.

On the other side of the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump is too busy with the upcoming election where polls show that he is lagging behind his opponent, Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump is seemingly partial to Erdogan because he reportedly has business interests in Turkey, not to mention that foreign policy is last on his agenda at the moment. It is likely that he would not like to get involved in the Greece-Turkey friction now.

Biden, on the other hand, has already spoken out against Turkey’s bullying in the Eastern Mediterranean. If the Democrat candidate wins the election it is seen as likely that the scales will tip in favor of Greece. So Erdogan has little time to continue his aggressive behavior, as the US election is three weeks from now.

Despite the fact that there is increased US military presence in Greece at the moment, Turkey somehow continues to enjoy the favoritism of NATO. The alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has openly sided with Turkey by speaking of “equal distances” when it is clear that Turkey is the repeated violator of international treaties and international law.

Unless something completely unexpected happens soon, Greece is yet again on its own to face Erdogan’s expansionist aims. Whether its allies and international organizations will intervene or not in case of actual military engagement remains to be seen.