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.