Ankara’s heated rhetoric over recent days is reportedly fueling concern again in Athens with regard to the activities that Turkey may pursue in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.
These concerns have been further augmented by the political turmoil that has gripped Turkey after the March 31 local elections and the blow they dealt to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Even though Athens has not been taken by surprise by Ankara’s notification to the United Nations that it will start drilling for gas within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus and the renewal of its call for the demilitarization of islands in the Aegean, it is clear that the Turkish government has a totally different perspective from Greece regarding the way forward that will lead to an improvement of Greek-Turkish ties.
For the time being, Athens wants the agenda of contacts to remain focused solely on the effort to revive the confidence building measures agreed to in 1988 by then foreign ministers Karolos Papoulias and Mesut Yilmaz.
However, the call on Saturday by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar to his Greek counterpart Evangelos Apostolakis for the demilitarization of the islands is seen in Athens as a clear indication that Turkey wants to widen the agenda.
Several observers say Akar’s remarks were also an indirect message to the US at a time when American military ships are visiting ports of the Dodecanese islands in the southeastern Aegean, as part of a deepening cooperation between Athens and Washington.
Akar’s comments were also seen as a reminder of Turkey’s long-held positions over sovereignty and related rights in the area of the Aegean Sea – ahead of Greece’s intention to extend its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea from six to 12 miles.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the winds of change in Turkey have started to blow against Erdogan.
And this was on full display on Monday in a letter posted on Facebook by former Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who criticized Erdogan’s AKP party for its cooperation with ultra-nationalists and resorting to undemocratic methods. He also lamented a collapse of his country’s political system.