The Eastern Mediterranean crisis between Turkey and Greece is putting a strain on relations between the entire EU and Turkey.
Saber Rattling Intensifies
Saber rattling is intensifying on both sides. Warships have already been deployed and Turkey has openly threatened war. Now, a new chapter has been added to the strained relations, as Ankara continues to disregard the rules of international diplomacy.
Turkey: Recognizing Diplomat Would be “Inappropriate”
Now a renewed upsurge in the ongoing conflict is looming between the EU and Turkey. Ankara is said to have not recognized the diplomatic accreditation of a military attaché who was assigned to work at the EU embassy in Turkey. The diplomat was sent at the urging of the EU, as Brussels considers the appointment of the military attaché to be necessary due to Turkey’s increasing importance in security policy.
On the other hand, Ankara stated that accreditation would be “inappropriate” in view of the current tensions and threats of sanctions from several member countries and that it would meet with incomprehension among the Turkish population. A solution does not seem to be in sight at the moment.
EU Slams Turkey’s Geopolitical Actions
Relations between Ankara and Brussels are currently tense, not only because of the ongoing human rights violations on the Bosphorus. The EU also criticizes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for fueling the war in Libya by smuggling dangerous weapons and triggering a new migration crisis.
In addition, Turkey is escalating the eastern Mediterranean situation in the dispute over gas reserves with Greece from Brussels’ point of view. Since the discovery of rich gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, there has been heated dispute over their exploitation. Both Greece and Turkey lay claim to the sea areas concerned.
Relations between the two NATO members are, therefore, extremely tense. Both sides have sent warships into the region.
How Hard Will the EU Push Back Against Turkey?
The conflict between Ankara and Brussels escalated further almost weekly, primarily due to the aforementioned conflict with Greece. In view of the German EU Council Presidency, a lot will depend on how much and whether Berlin can and wants to pressure Ankara.
Chancellor Angela Merkel recently spoke to both Turkey and Greece. How confused the situation is, however, can also be seen in the choice of words. Nikos Dendias, Greece’s foreign minister, recently called Turkey a “troublemaker” and “destabilizing factor in the region”.
Greece: Turkey Has to Stop “Provocations” and Negotiate
Meanwhile Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Turkey had to stop the “provocations” and show itself ready for talks. However, one condition for Greece to start talks is that all Turkish warships withdraw from the region.
The answer from Ankara came promptly. Erdogan made it clear that he was ready to enforce his will also militarily. It’s still just saber-rattling, and Erdogan is unlikely to risk a military conflict, but the words fit into a number of anti-European remarks Erdogan has already made. The latter includes statements such as that Greece and its European supporters – by which Erdogan primarily means France that Greece supported and openly opposed Turkey – were “greedy for money” and “incompetent”.
Greece Rejects NATO Mediation Offer
It is thus not a surprise that Greece has rejected a NATO mediation offer despite the fact that the fronts have hardened, and even though both Greece and Turkey are members. However, a NATO spokeswoman announced that a meeting between delegates from both sides had in fact taken place last Thursday at NATO headquarters.
The latter may be a start, but given the volatility of the situation, the fact that this meeting was held at a low diplomatic level is not a good sign. Ankara’s rejection of the EU diplomat shows once again how Turkey willfully opposes its allies and even disregards diplomatic decorum out of self-interest and neo-Ottoman fantasies.