Ahead of the meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the German Foreign Minister stated that the “window of dialogue between Greece and Turkey should be expanded, not closed.” However, in Turkey, where the Maas mediator is also waiting, they immediately stated categorically: it is Greece that “undermines” the goal of restoring high-level contacts between the two neighboring countries, thus putting German diplomacy before an extremely difficult task.
Ankara is referring to Greece’s decision to declare a site south of the tiny island of Castelorizo an area for naval exercises. The disputed territory where the Turkish research vessel Oru’reis is currently conducting hydrocarbon exploration under the protection of warships is closed for navigation from the evening of 25 to 27 August. However, Turkey “will not take the slightest step back,” the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah quoted the president of the republic, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as saying.
“Greece will sow chaos that cannot be avoided. Now only Greece is responsible for all conflicts in the region and only it will suffer from it,” the Turkish leader warned menacingly.
In support of these words, Ankara announced the immediate start of military exercises in the area south of the Greek island of Crete, further complicating the situation.
Recall that the specter of the Greek-Turkish conflict in the Aegean Sea, which has been in the air since the mid-1990s (in 1996, the parties were already on the brink of war because of the dispute over the island of Imiya), this time becomes almost inevitable. The fault of all is not only the sharply increased territorial ambitions of Turkey, which considers the maritime borders drawn after the First World War unfair but also the rich oil and gas resources found here. In the battle for control of them, no one wants to back down. In an effort to “stake out” its rights to the gas-rich offshore shelf, Turkey had previously signed an agreement to delineate maritime borders with the Government of Libya’s national accord. Greece, in turn, on August 6 concluded an agreement on the demarcation of maritime zones with Egypt. Both Athens and Ankara do not recognize these treaties as legitimate and believe that they infringe on the rights of one of the parties.
For Greece, the compromise is unacceptable: by giving the Turks a piece of the shelf even at one island of Castelorizo, located 580 kilometers from mainland Greece and only 2 kilometers from Turkey, the Greeks risk encountering even more increased territorial and energy appetites of Ankara. Not particularly hoping for its own strength, Athens is keen to internationalize the conflict, presenting it as Ankara’s attack on the principles of international law and the external borders of the European Union. In the absence of support from NATO, which traditionally does not want to involve the alliance in the long-standing Greek-Turkish showdown, the Greeks are betting on the threat of anti-Turkish sanctions from the European Union, as well as situational alliances with Egypt, Israel, the UAE, and Cyprus. However, what practical assistance these countries will be able to, and most importantly will want to provide to the Greeks in case of a real military conflict of the latter with Turkey remains a big question. According to the sources of “RG” in the Greek diplomatic circles, the declared alliances with these countries are rather symbolic and no one in Athens expects that The Egyptians, Israelis, or Arabs will come to their aid.
So far, Greece has received effective support only from France, which sent a frigate and a helicopter carrier to the Aegean Sea for joint exercises with the Greeks. At the same time, in Paris, showing increased international activity under President Emmanuel Macron, are guided not so much by pan-European solidarity as by their own economic interests. The fact that the French energy company Total already has the right to develop gas fields on the shelf of Cyprus and it cannot be ruled out that the Greeks promised the French a share at the further partition of the Mediterranean energy pie.
As for the United States, for which the Greeks have always pinned their main hopes, the Hellenists seem to be bitterly disappointed. Despite the fact that the Greek governments in recent years have pandered to all Washington’s “wanted” by providing their territory under new American bases and expanding the American military presence at home, U.S. President Donald Trump persistently sees Turkish President Erdogan as a “strong leader” and a “first-class chess player.”
“For decades, we have believed that Washington, in the event of a threatening deterioration in relations between Greece and Turkey, will come to resolve the situation. The recent U.S. political retreat from many parts of the world reduces the likelihood of American interference in Greek-Turkish relations. This is the result of the personal strategic choice of the PRESIDENT of the United States,” says the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.