With Turkey’s transgressions in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean in full swing, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday urged Ankara to abandon the rationale of constant provocations with Greece.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a European Union leaders’ summit, Tsipras said the unanimous condemnation of Turkey by the European Council over its aggressive stance toward Greece and Cyprus was the most powerful European message yet to Ankara.
“With [Cyprus] President [Nicos] Anastasiades we presented [to EU leaders] the escalating actions of Turkey,” he said, adding that Turkey’s behavior has changed “in a way that should concern us.”
Greece, he said, will always try to keep lines of communication with Turkey open and back its EU accession course. He added, however, that he made it clear to his fellow leaders that Greece is determined to defend its territorial integrity “against any threat.”
Referring to the two Greek soldiers detained in Turkey, Tsipras said Athens would “continue bilateral efforts through bilateral channels” to resolve the issue but also depends on the “open mobilization” of its EU partners for support.
The two soldiers were detained early this month after accidentally crossing the border into Turkey in bad weather.
Tsipras added that he received assurances from European Commission heads that they will raise the issue with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the EU-Turkey Summit in Varna that begins on Monday.
However, the harassment on Thursday of a Chinook helicopter carrying the head of the Hellenic Army and other senior military officials by two Turkish F-16s just a few hours after the EC’s condemnation of Turkey is seen in Athens as yet another indication that Ankara is intent on creating an atmosphere of constant tension.
The incident was the latest in a long string of Turkish transgressions in the Aegean, including military threats against Cyprus if it exploits its natural gas reserves.