NEWS

Ankara testing Athens’s resolve

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Defense, Diplomacy

Athens is viewing the recent spike in violations of Greece’s air space and territorial waters by Turkish ships and jets as a test of its resolve.

Tensions between the two countries escalated further on Friday after a Turkish coastal patrol boat fired live ammunition during a military exercise in Greek territorial waters in the eastern Aegean.

The incident was seen as part of a trend that began on January 29, when a Turkish gunboat carrying Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar sailed around the Aegean islets of Imia – whose sovereignty Ankara disputes.

Since that time Turkish patrol boats have moved around several islets in the region, including Panaghia and Farmakonisi – both have a permanent Greek guard – while Turkish fighters jets have continued overflights, leading to dangerous mock dog fights with Greek air force pilots. And with the incendiary rhetoric emanating from Ankara on the rise, Athens has been eager to put a lid on tension before it spirals out of control.

According to analysts, Turkey’s confrontational stance is linked to a constitutional referendum on April 16 called by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a bid to increase his executive powers.

With polls in Turkey suggesting the vote will go to the wire, Erdogan, analysts say, is upping the nationalistic rhetoric. The Turkish leader’s sweep for the nationalist vote has also had a sobering impact on expectations in the UN-backed talks for the reunification of.

In response, Greece is looking to bolster the country’s diplomatic presence on the international stage though NATO and the European Union. Despite the financial constraints involved, the government is seeking to maintain a permanent presence of Greece’s military navy in NATO’s Sea Guardian and the EU’s “Sophia” operation.

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