Erdoğan says Greece is inferior to Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continued a diatribe against neighbouring Greece late on Monday, saying it was inferior to his country.

“Greece is not at our level, just as it is not our equal politically, economically, or militarily," Erdoğan said in televised comments after a cabinet meeting in Turkey’s capital of Ankara.

Greece is lodging complaints with NATO, the European Union and the United States about statements made by the Turkish leadership over the past few weeks, according to the Athens-based Kathimerini newspaper. At the weekend, Erdoğan, who must contest elections by June next year, said Turkey may “come suddenly one night” amid a revival in accusations by his government that Greece has been illegally militarising islands near Turkey’s coastline. Greece denies the charges.

“Your occupying the islands does not bind us. When the time, the hour, comes, we will do what is necessary,” Erdoğan said at the weekend.

Relations between Turkey and Greece have reached the lowest point since the 1990’s, when the two countries almost went to war over territorial rights to a tiny Aegean islet. Ankara and Athens are also now entangled in a dispute over the right to explore for hydrocarbons near Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, where Cyprus and several Greek islands are also located.  

On Monday, Erdoğan’s interior minister said a refugee camp near Athens had become a base for terrorists who end up back in Turkey to carry out attacks, citing the recent arrest of one suspected operative of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Allegations that Greece trained terrorists were “sad and provocative lies,” Greek Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos said on Monday, according to Kathimerini.

Critics of Erdoğan in Greece and elsewhere say his rhetoric against Athens and attempts to lay claim to territory in the Aegean and Mediterranean are part of an expansionary neo-Ottoman style foreign policy that also includes occupation of parts of Syria and Iraq, and the deployment of Turkish troops and Syrian mercenaries in Libya.

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