Turkish woes raising concerns in Athens

The turmoil in the Turkish economy may be primarily a neighbour’s internal affairs, but its political management is raising reasonable concerns in Athens, as the recent examples of incendiary rhetoric and other actions emanating from Ankara targeting Greece would suggest.

In recent days, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and other officials in the government of the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have resorted to aggressive rhetoric against Greece, while Ankara has also proceeded with provocative actions.

These actions include flights by Turkish fighter jets over Greek territory, and specifically the islands of Panagia, Anthropofagi, Makronisi and Oinousses. 

These occurred in the previous two days during the culmination of the Medusa 11 exercise with the participation of Greece, Egypt, Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates and observers from France, India, Jordan, Morocco, Portugal and Saudi Arabia.

The Greek experience has shown that whenever Turkey faces domestic trouble or problems on the other side of its eastern borders (Syria, Iraq), the possibility of diffusion to the west is always possible. 

Greece is well aware that the organised attempt to destabilise the Evros land border in early 2020 occurred just 24 hours after a deadly attack on Turkish troops.

Apart from the external fronts in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, with the possibility of even greater tensions in Cyprus and its exclusive economic zone, the likelihood of prolonged political unrest in Turkey has also prompted concerns regarding the impact on migration and refugees. 

Turkey already hosts several million refugees and migrants, while since 2016 Greece has also received a number of Turks who have left their country to avoid political persecution. It is therefore clearly understood that, in case of internal unrest in Turkey, a renewed wave of refugees heading to Greece cannot be ruled out.

The deteriorating situation in Turkey’s relations with the West, not least the United States, is also a source of concern, although it is clear to many that Ankara is receiving messages of indirect support, even through representatives. The recent agreements with Spain and the expected arrival of the UAE crown prince in the Turkish capital are being used by Ankara as signs that Turkey remains an investment destination.

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

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