The recent spike in Turkish provocations in the Aegean and incendiary comments emanating from Ankara are aimed at testing Greece’s resolve, according to Greek analysts.
In what was seen as its latest transgression, Turkey dispatched its Cesme research vessel to conduct surveys on Wednesday in international waters between the islands of Thasos, Samothrace and Limnos, but within the area of responsibility of the Hellenic Search and Rescue Coordination Center.
The night before, Turkish coast guard vessels conducted patrols in the region around the Imia islets. At the same time, the Cyprus talks are being undermined over what Greeks believe is a minor detail – the decision by the Cyprus Parliament for schools to commemorate a 1950 referendum calling for union with Greece. Greeks say it is an attempt to shift attention from the fundamental issues of the peace talks, namely post-settlement security and guarantees.
In response, Athens has pursued the principle of proportionality by countering the presence of Turkish military and coast guard vessels with an equivalent number of Greek ones, while embarking on a diplomatic campaign at international organizations and in major capitals.
Analysts also attribute the spike in tension to the Supreme Court’s refusal to extradite the Turkish servicemen that Ankara says were involved in the July coup attempt.
But they also note that it serves as a convenient pretext for Turkey to up the nationalistic rhetoric ahead of the April 16 referendum called by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a bid to expand his powers.
Bearing this in mind, Athens should expect more tension over the next two months.