With relations between Athens and Ankara on a downturn, Turkey warned on Saturday that there will be a “heavy price” to pay for “provocations” in the Aegean, the Mediterranean or Cyprus.
“All should know that provocations in the Aegean, Mediterranean and Cyprus will have no effect,” Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Saturday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
On Wednesday, the chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, warned that Greece will “flatten” any Greek islet in the event that Turkish forces land there. The Greek government has backed Apostolakis’s stance but insisted that it will not imitate Turkey by raising tensions.
Turkish fighter jets made a total of 14 overflights on December 17 and 20 over the inhabited southeastern Aegean islands of Kastellorizo and Oinousses – amounting to almost half of the total (29) overflights in the first 11 months of 2018.
Greek analysts believe the upsurge in Turkey’s belligerence is also due in part to the polarized political atmosphere in the neighboring country which has led the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pursue a policy of incendiary rhetoric toward Greece in response to accusations from opposition parties that it lacks a nationalist fervor.
Meanwhile, Athens is hoping that the resignation of US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will have no impact on relations between Athens and Washington – given the progress made in bilateral ties and Greece’s efforts in the last two years to consolidate its position in the wider region as a valuable American ally.