Turkey’s aggressive stance with Greece linked to dismay with U.S.

The recent doubling down by Turkey on its aggressive stance has been attributed in Athens to Ankara’s dismay with the United States over its delay in approving the purchase of 40 new F-16 fighter jets and because a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has yet to be set.

This dismay has been expressed with a barrage of airspace violations, even above inhabited Aegean islands, which began a fortnight ago, despite what was described as a positive meeting in Istanbul between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Erdoğan last month, where both sides were seen to agree to an informal moratorium. 

According to diplomatic sources, Ankara wants to remind Washington that it has another way to make its presence felt in the region and that is not the diplomatic route. The same sources said this stance stems from a strong dissatisfaction in Turkey as Erdoğan is still waiting for the U.S. Congress to approve its procurement of 40 F-16 Vipers, as well as for it to modernise another 80, which is seen as unlikely.

On the other hand, the expected meeting between Erdoğan and Biden on the side lines of the extraordinary NATO summit in Brussels, which had been announced in advance by the representative of the Turkish Presidency, never materialised. 

At the same time, the Greek Prime Minister will be officially received at the White House on May 16.

Moreover, Erdoğan was also reportedly annoyed with Biden’s recent statement on the Armenian genocide, urging the American president to “learn history.”

Analysts in Athens have also linked Turkey’s provocative stance to the simmering political war of succession in Turkey, with prospective leaders, such as Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, eager to show their commitment to Turkey’s ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean. 

A third reason for Ankara’s sudden turn is related to the war in Ukraine. Initially Turkey emerged as a mediating power but this role has for the time being disappeared.

Greece has responded with two demarches to the Turkish ambassador, while Mitsotakis told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that Turkey’s behaviour undermines NATO unity and that it has not aligned Alliance members on sanctions. 

Athens also decided to discontinue the confidence building measures for now.

(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)



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