Wednesday, 21 October 2020

How much longer can Greece and Turkey avoid war?

 This article was published in The Critic on 6 October. 


ATHENS, Greece - Last summer, Greece and Turkey came closer to war than they have done since 1974, when Turkey invaded Cyprus. The drama began to unfold on July 21, when Turkey announced it was sending a seismic survey ship, the Oruc Reis, to look for oil and gas in areas the UN Law of the Sea awards to Greece.


Within hours, the Greek and Turkish navies had deployed throughout the Aegean and east of Crete. They remained so for two months. Greek helicopters pinned down Turkish submarines off the island of Evia. Frigates shadowed each other so closely, that on August 12 two of them collided when a Turkish frigate performed a manoeuvre across the bows of a Greek one. Greek and Turkish F-16s intercepted each other between Crete and Cyprus. Greece came close to invoking the European Union’s mutual defence clause.


On September 13, Turkey withdrew the Oruc Reis, ostensibly for maintenance, and redeployed its navy. In the coming days, Greece and Turkey are to resume talks abandoned four and a half years ago on carving out their continental shelves – vast swathes of the east Mediterranean where they may exercise exclusive commercial rights to exploit undersea resources.


For now, there is de-escalation, but expectations for the outcome of these talks are low.


Thursday, 15 October 2020

EU prepares for standoff over Turkish sanctions

This article was published by Al Jazeera International. 


European Union leaders face a difficult balancing act on the eve of a crucial summit for the EU-Turkey relationship.

The EU Council meeting, with the eastern Mediterranean dispute high on the agenda, takes place on Thursday and Friday after being postponed last week when the council’s president, Charles Michel, tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a letter to the 27 leaders: “I would like to emphasise once again that we are ready for dialogue with Greece without any preconditions,” as he urged Brussels to “remain impartial” to help resolve a “new test” in bilateral relations.

But as the meeting began on Thursday, a Cypriot diplomat, according to Reuters news agency, said his country would stand firm against sanctions on Belarus – which other European countries have called for, unless sanctions on Ankara were implemented first.

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Greece, Cyprus, to seek EU sanctions against Turkey over Varosha

 This article was published by Al Jazeera International


ATHENS, Greece – Greece says that unless Turkey reverses an illegal occupation of the town of Varosha on Cyprus’ east coast, it may seek to trigger economic sanctions against it that the European Union has lined up.


“Turkey needs to take a step back. If it doesn’t, next week both Cyprus and Greece will table the matter for discussion by EU leaders at the October 16-17 European Council,” said government spokesman Stelios Petsas on Thursday.


EU members Greece and Cyprus sought sanctions against Turkey last week, in retaliation for unauthorized Turkish exploration for oil and gas on Cyprus’ continental shelf.


Thursday, 24 September 2020

Rights groups blast Greece for asylum violations

 This article was published by Al Jazeera International. 


Two aid organisations are asking the European Commission to launch infringement proceedings against Greece for violations of Europe’s asylum law.


Oxfam and WeMove Europe say a Greek asylum law that took effect this year has made it deliberately easy to disqualify asylum applicants and difficult for them to appeal rejections.


The groups say these violations are taking place “deliberately, on a drastic scale, in a systemic manner and on an ongoing basis.”


A senior Greek immigration source speaking on condition of anonymity says that problems in the new asylum law were addressed through a parliamentary amendment in May.

Friday, 4 September 2020

For Greece, the Battle of Salamis Never Ended

This article was published by The Wall Street Journal.

Courtesy: Bjorn Lovén

It’s unusual for a modern Greek audience to punctuate an ancient tragedy with applause. But in July, a production of Aeschylus’ “The Persians” by the National Theatre of Greece, presented in the splendor of the ancient theater of Epidauros, was applauded three times on its final night, with the prime minister in attendance. The play relates the Greeks’ stunning victory at the naval battle of Salamis in 480 B.C., where 300 Greek ships defeated an invading Persian fleet four times larger. The historic triumph secured Athenian naval power in the Aegean and established Athenian-inspired democracies across Greece.
The performance was one of several celebratory events planned for the 2,500th anniversary of Salamis. Amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus, Greek authorities aren’t sure how many of them will come to fruition by September 29, the presumed date of the battle. But just days before the performance at Epidauros, Greece braced for a repetition of the battle itself.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Threatening Greece, Turkey is testing Europe’s sovereignty


Turkey is expanding its influence across the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece stands in its way. What will the EU do?


John Psaropoulos

Twice in three weeks this summer, Greece and Turkey poised to clash in the Eastern Mediterranean. On July 21 and August 10, Turkey announced it would start looking for oil and gas deposits on what Greece considers its continental shelf east of Crete.


The Greek armed forces went on alert. Greek and Turkish navies fanned out across the Aegean and east Mediterranean.


The two NATO allies have come closer to open conflict than they have since 1996, when Turkey planted a flag on a rocky Greek islet in the Aegean, and since 1987, when Turkey again sent a survey ship into the north Aegean.


While war in the Aegean cannot be ruled out, it is unlikely to be Turkey’s preferred option. It would isolate Turkey diplomatically, and possibly bankrupt it with sanctions. It is more likely that Turkey seeks to corner Greece into a maritime territorial settlement that skirts past established international legal norms, or forces Greece, and later Cyprus, to declare their vast continental shelves joint development zones with Turkey. 


Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Statement from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Greece is a proud and powerful country. A member of the European family and a pillar of stability in the eastern Mediterranean. We remain unwaveringly committed to the principles of International Law and the rules of good neighbourliness. We seek to build bridges of peace, good faith, and cooperation with everyone.

Our country never threatens but will not suffer blackmail either. This is why it does not succumb to threats or tolerate provocative acts.

We negotiated and signed the agreements on maritime zone demarcation with Italy and, more recently, with Egypt, guided by this principled policy. These agreements are completely aligned with the Law of the Sea.
They demonstrate that long-standing disputes can be resolved when there is good will and a spirit of trust, and ensure progress and prosperity for the peoples, always in line with International Law.

It is in this very framework of legality that we are prepared to enter into discussions with all our neighbours, confidently and without concessions.