The increasing pressure Turkey is feeling in Idlib, northern Syria, and the threat of large-scale clashes with the Syrian Army have coincided with an escalation in tension in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On Thursday, Turkish fighter jets brought the number of overflights carried out in the Aegean to 100, suggesting that 2020 may be a record breaker if the infringements continue at the current rate.
At the same time, Turkish officials’ incendiary rhetoric regarding Greece and Cyprus continues unabated.
Turkish diplomats are also using the Ankara-Tripoli border agreement to promote Turkey’s “Blue Homeland” doctrine, which envisions Turkish influence over vast tracts of the Eastern Mediterranean.
This was also evident in comments by senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official Cagatay Erciyes a few days ago in Washington.
It is also seen as a given in Athens that Ankara is using Greece as a lever of pressure on Washington, especially as US calls in favor of a tougher stance on Turkey – rather than unconditional reconciliation – get louder.
A case in point was Wednesday’s article in the Washington Examiner by Michael Rubin, a member of the American Enterprise Institute and former Pentagon official, titled “Reconciliation with Turkey Should Only Come with a Price.”
Turkey’s stance was also on display again on Thursday when its Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made a public reference to the talks Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had in London on the sidelines of the NATO summit in early December.
Speaking to Turkey’s TRT, Cavusoglu said that Erdogan suggested to Mitsotakis that Greece and Turkey sign a similar agreement to the Turkish-Libyan memorandum “as long as you are ready to compromise.”
Cavusoglu said that Erdogan also said: “Let’s sit down to talk. Learn to share in the Eastern Mediterranean. Everyone has rights here, but if you ignore the rights of Turkish Cypriots and Turkey,” then Turkey will continue what it is doing in the region.
He also announced a third drilling mission by Turkey, saying that “whether the ship will go to the Aegean or the Eastern Mediterranean or the Black Sea is a decision to be taken by the Ministry of Energy.”
Once again, Cavusoglu also raised the issue of a “Turkish” minority in Thrace and said that “politicians in Greece cannot call ‘Turks’ Turks in Western Thrace.”