Greece initially welcomed Turkey‘s recent decision to limit its provocative acts and resume exploratory talks after the intervention of the European Union and the United States. It was a great relief after months of violations of Greece’s territorial waters and aisrpace by the Turkish miliary.
Along with the violations, Ankara’s aggressive rhetoric threatened war at every turn, with Turkish high officials and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan making inflammatory statements repeatedly.
Yet the invitation to new exploratory talks has not been seen as genuine by Athens, as Ankara quickly raised the issue of demilitarization of Aegean islands. After a meeting of Turkey’s National Security Council, chaired by President Erdogan, demilitarization of the islands had suddenly appeared as a condition for recommencing talks.
“Turkey urges countries acting in breach of international law, regarding the demilitarization of islands in particular, to act using common sense,” read a jaw-dropping recent statement issued by Erdogan, referring to none other than Greece.
Erdogan also said that Turkey will make no compromises in its rights the Eastern Mediterranean. Clearly, these are words that do not come from someone who wants to negotiate.
Athens’ response was swift: the demilitarization of the Aegean islands is a non-negotiable issue.
For Greece, memories of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus remain fresh, even 46 years later. The bonds between the two countries are understandably very strong, since they are the only Greek-speaking nations in the world.
Looking back in history, the removal of the Greek Division in Cyprus in late 1967-early 1968 by the junta left the island unprotected. It made it very easy for Turkey to invade the country in 1974 under the pretext of protecting Turkish-Cypriots.
Today, Turkey officially has 17,000 troops in Cyprus as a peace-keeping force and has established the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” pseudo-state, which is not recognized by any other country on the globe, or even the United Nations.
According to the UN Secreteray-General, in recent years there have been almost 30,000 Turkish troops stationed on the island. One wonders what makes Ankara keep such a sizeable military force in a country that is a member of the European Union.
Turkey’s expansionist tendencies and Erdogan’s fantasies of reviving the great Ottoman Empire of the past — with himself in the role of the great sultan — became obvious when he shunned the international community by turning Hagia Sophia into mosque.
Ankara is clearly showing its expansionist tendencies, both in theory and in practice. The map of the “Blue Homeland,” which includes several Greek islands in the Aegean and most of Thrace, along with parts of foreign lands beyond the eastern Turkish borders, is the “theory.”
Let’s accept that the map is only for internal consumption, to appease the populace that faces an economic disaster after the plunge of the Turkish lira. It goes together with several propaganda videos Turkey is releasing with images of Ottoman warriors through the ages and today’s military, along with young children showing their devotion to the flag.
These are videos that can only be compared to the short propaganda movies Leni Riefenstahl once made for Nazi Germany. One such effort was released only three days ago.
And while Turkey speaks of peaceful dialogue, in practice it is flexing its military muscle across many fronts. It has invaded parts of Syria, has sent troops and weapons to Libya, and now takes military sides with Azerbaijan in the country’s armed conflict with Armenia.
At the same time, it keeps a sizable amount of troops in the occupied northern part of Cyprus. The bogus deal with Libya that delineates an exclusive economic zone which includes a chunk of Crete is another Ankara faux pas that unmasks its expansionist aims.
In the light of Turkey’s actions and rhetoric in the past year or so, the call for demilitarization of the Greek islands as a prerequisite of the resumption of exploratory talks does not sound sincere at all.
It almost seems as if Turkey is attempting to avoid any kind of dialogue by making such an unreasonable demand.