NEWS

Athens takes cautious approach as Turkish elections draw nearer

VASSILIS NEDOS

As tensions in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean appear, for the time being at least, to have subsided, Athens is sticking to its strategy of avoiding public spats with Ankara – to the degree that it is feasible – and is reportedly mulling its stance toward Turkey after snap presidential and parliamentary elections are held there on June 24.

This low-key response, promulgated by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, was evident as he avoided briefing journalists after a lengthy meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels.

Greece’s low-key stance also comes against the backdrop of deteriorating US-Turkey relations, which were highlighted again on Friday as Washington threatened to impose sanctions on Ankara over its planned purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.

A major concern for Athens is the spike in the nationalist rhetoric emanating from Turkey, and with Turkish elections just two months away the Greek government will have its eye on the political alliances that the ruling AKP will form in the post-election period and the degree to which nationalists will influence Turkish foreign policy.

Greece is also concerned that attempts may be made to hold Turkish election rallies on Greek territory, namely in Thrace, home to a sizable Muslim population. On May 20, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to deliver a campaign speech in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Moreover, with the entirety of Turkey’s state apparatus fixated solely on the elections, the government is also concerned at the growing influx of migrant and refugees in the eastern Aegean from Turkish shores.

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