The claim on Wednesday by a Turkish minister that the tiny inhabited Greek island of Agathonisi in the southeastern Aegean was “Turkish” essentially dashed any expectations in Athens that Ankara would tone down the recent upsurge of its incendiary rhetoric once the historic constitutional referendum in the neighboring country ended 10 days ago.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may have won the vote to expand his executive powers, albeit by a slim margin, but Ankara appears intent on continuing what Athens describes as its hostile behavior and revisionist rhetoric.
According to diplomatic sources, Greek authorities attribute the continued animosity emanating from Ankara to the fact that Erdogan did not get the clear-cut triumph he had hoped for in the referendum, and thus does not have the flexibility to push back against the country’s nationalistic circles and parties of the opposition.
And given these constraints, the reasoning in Athens is that Erdogan is seeking a foreign policy outlet – namely by disputing Greek sovereignty in the Aegean with constant air and sea space violations and by raising obstacles to a Cyprus settlement.
But on Wednesday it took it a step further with what Greek diplomatic sources described as “extreme” remarks by Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik, who told Turkish TV that Agathonisi “belongs to Turkey. It’s Turkish land.”
“He essentially threatened an inhabited Greek island,” a Foreign Ministry official said.
The issue of Turkish provocations was discussed by the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) convened by by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday.
Soon after, Celik’s remarks received a stern written response from the Greek Foreign Ministry, which denounced the “ongoing revisionist and dangerous conduct on the part of Turkey.”
“We unequivocally condemn the ongoing revisionist policy of Turkey, which issues provocative statements disputing the internationally recognized borders as those were historically defined and established by international law, during the last century.”
Meanwhile, three Turkish jets, two of which were armed, violated Greek national air space on Wednesday and engaged in two mock dogfights with Greek jets.
Turkey also issued a new navigational telex (navtex) saying that one of its research vessels, the Barbaros, will conduct research in an area stretching from Paphos on the west coast of Cyprus all the way to Kyrenia in the north.