Greek state built on anti-Türkiye rhetoric: Turkish officials

Sat, 13 Aug 2022 9:37 GMT
Greece has 'sense of entitlement', longstanding matters manageable but new issues surfacing, officials say
Greek state built on anti-Türkiye rhetoric: Turkish officials

Despite having at least 200 years of state history and a deeply-rooted Hellenic culture, the Greek governance structure is built on an anti-Türkiye rhetoric, according to Turkish Foreign Ministry officials.

Underscoring Greece's contribution to the Western civilization via its language, technology, medicine, theatre and Olympics, an official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said such contribution gave Greece a "sense of entitlement."

Saying that such mentality is seen in almost all of Athens' moves, the official said the West has granted Greece "its never-ending" trust.

Listing the issues between Türkiye and Greece, the official said longstanding matters such as the Aegean, Cyprus, Greek support to terrorism, and discrimination against the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, are manageable, but new issues surfaced such as migration, energy reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as changing the status of Hagia Sophia.

The diplomat argued that Turkish decision to open Hagia Sophia for Muslims worship "really" disturbed the Greeks and caused a "deep trauma."

Meanwhile, Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) members fleeing to Greece is another bone of contention between Ankara and Athens.

After the July 15, 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye, neighboring Greece became a top destination for FETO terrorists fleeing justice.

"Athens is in a toxic, safe-haven state with the presence of terrorists from the DHKP-C, PKK and FETO. All of their locations are known," the official said, in response to a question on the refugee camp of Lavrion (Laurium) near the Greek capital.

Stressing that an EU country, in this day and age, is nurturing terrorists who have nothing to do with freedom, the official reminded that the PKK is an entity designated as terrorist organization not only by the EU but by the US as well.

"There is no explanation for this, these are the groups that the Greek mentality feeds on with the logic that 'it will help me one day against Türkiye'," the senior official said, adding that it is no longer a transit country but a destination country for terrorists.

According to the Greek press estimates, since July 15, 2016, nearly 20,000 Turkish citizens, mostly FETO members, crossed into Greece via the Aegean islands or the Meric (Evros) River. While some of them went on to other European countries, about 9,000 of them sought political asylum in Greece itself.

Despite FETO's good relations with Greece, the officials argued there is no guarantee that the terror group would not target it one day.

Arms race

Greece recently signed multiple big-ticket arm deals, including a deal for Israeli drones, Rafale jets from France, and upgrades to its F-16 fleet from the US. Athens has also approached Washington for the potential purchase of at least 20 F-35 stealth aircraft.

Another diplomatic official, who also requested not to be named, defined Greek moves illogical, saying Türkiye is almost entirely self-sufficient in defense, but Greek is dependent on foreign sources, and also expressed concern over its "sleep-walking into a conflict."

Türkiye in recent months has stepped up criticism of Greece stationing troops on islands in the eastern Aegean, near the Turkish coast and in many cases visible from shore.

These islands were required to be demilitarized under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris, so any troops or weapons on the islands are strictly forbidden.

Citing Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar's recent remarks about arming the islands, the official said "if the arms placed on the islands is for your protection, then we ask why? Will the Italians attack? Or is it against me? Then it is not enough."

The official also called the moves "nonsense," saying: "We all have difficulty in understanding the moves of Greece, including the Greek people."

On a question regarding the reason for Greece's frequent propaganda of "a possible attack from Türkiye," the official said Athens is exaggerating the situation and if its goal is "deterrence, then it is not a successful one because it is triggering the move that it is trying to avoid."

"They (Greece) are in a spiral and cannot get out. But a country, a nation, which is restless at the social level, is making themselves uneasy."

Türkiye has rejected the militarization of the islands by Greece since the beginning, and has issued protests through diplomatic channels and requested the violations to stop. The issue came to the UN and NATO agenda in the 1970s.

The latest Turkish diplomatic move was to send a letter of complaint to the UN in July 2021, saying the militarization of the islands posed a serious threat to Türkiye's security.

Türkiye began to make more frequent warnings to Greece in the recent years both because "militarization of the islands have increased and the chips are down," according to the official.

The officials noted that Türkiye will not allow arming of the islands at Aegean Sea, has enough and sufficient legal basis and thus taking the matter to the UN is a correct move

Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement

On the US military bases in Greece, the senior official said that there is a great "theatrical play" going on.

"Americans clearly felt that Türkiye is now pursuing an independent foreign policy and cannot get what it wants, as it did during the cold war," the second official said, adding that Greece's "biggest trick since the 1800s is to gather the nations around and have them take a picture together saying: 'Look, I have friends too'."

The US-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement recently ratified by the Greek parliament allows the US military to gain access to three more bases in Greece, besides one it currently operates.

Through the agreement that was inked in October 2021 in Washington DC, the two countries aim to deepen and expand their defense cooperation.

It will permit the US military to use Georgula Barracks in Greece's central province of Volos, Litochoro Training Ground, and army barracks in the northeastern port city of Alexandroupoli apart from the naval base in Souda Bay in Crete, which the US has operated since 1969.

Airspace 'violations'

On alleged Greek airspace violations by Türkiye, the second official said: "It is a complete lie," adding: "Yes, our jets did approached 2.5 miles from Alexandroupoli. But first Greek jets flew on the Enez coast of Edirne, they spin over (southwestern province of) Dalaman."

Noting that Türkiye responded to the harassment of Greece, the official said the Greeks "invented the theatres, and they are still continuing their theatrical skills."

The officials called the bill approved in the US House of Representatives last month stipulating that the US' sale of F-16s to Türkiye are not be used in 'violation of Greek airspace' as "absurd".

On the international law regarding Greek claims of airspace being accepted as 10 nautical miles, the official stressed that Türkiye's statements come in accordance to international law.

"There are different maritime jurisdictions. For instance, you have an island and you have territorial waters around it. There is a place where those territorial waters end. Thus, your airspace and your territorial waters end on top of each other. You cannot claim airspace beyond territorial waters. There is no such thing in the world," the official said.

Regarding a story in Greek and European press that Türkiye is preparing to land on the Greek islands during the Efes 2022 military drill, the senior official said: "It (military exercise) is quite normal. It is done every two years, different scenarios are applied."

Responding to a question on the allegations that Greek ships were carrying Russian oil under sanctions, despite the problems between Greece and Russia, the official said: "The world's largest tanker trading market is in the hands of Greek Cypriots and Greeks, it's like the facts of life."

Peace not war

Expressing that Greece is disturbed by the fact Türkiye is a "normative country that sets rules," the official said Türkiye wants the Ukraine-Russia war to end.

"We say that the war must end; Why? Because Türkiye is a country that does trade. It is not a war trade, it is a country that does normal, proper trade. A country that makes money from tourism. Regional instability is not good for Türkiye. That's why we are trying to end it."

The senior diplomat reminded of Türkiye's position on annexation of Crimea by Russia and said: "We have been telling Russia that it is not true, we don't approve. But there is no reason to insult Moscow, we have relations with Russia."

Noting that Türkiye is ready to solve its problems with Greece on many platforms such as facilitating negotiations, arbitration, and international courts, the second official said: "International courts do not work like national courts. First of all, you would have to agree on the disputes and write them down ... Then you will also mention by which legal instruments you want these international disputes to be resolved. We (Türkiye) want to go to court in all matters, however, Greece just wants the continental shelf dispute. Athens does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice."

Describing Greece's desire to take the continental shelf dispute to international court as "cunning attitude", the official said: "There are at least over 1,000 Greek islands in the Aegean. We (Türkiye) have fewer islands. The gap in the middle at 6 miles is half of the Aegean. When it is extended to 12 miles, 70% of the Aegean will be on the Greek side. From Istanbul to Izmir, you would only be able to go from the shore. You can't solve problems until all dimensions are discussed. But they (Athens) say, 'Let's just take the continental shelf to international court'."

Wiretapping scandal

Asked about the recent wiretapping scandal, the official described it as the "Greek Watergate."

"The Greeks always go around as such apostles of democracy. But it turned out that they were doing a lot of meaningless work. Their intelligence service was listening (to Greek opposition officials) very legally. How is it legal? It's pretty messed up."

Greek intelligence chief Panagiotis Kontoleon and Prime Minister’s Secretary General Grigoris Dimitriades resigned after details of targeting the head of an opposition party and a journalist with spyware emerged.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis has acknowledged “legal” wiretapping of Nikos Androulakis, leader of the socialist PASOK party, for three months, but denies he knew about the surveillance.

The opposition, meanwhile, claims the government has lost its legitimacy, and has called on Mitsotakis to step down..

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