Turkish leaders rally behind island claims

Opposition chief tells Erdogan he support moves against Greece; Athens notes 2023 elections

Turkish leaders rally behind island claims

Turkey’s main opposition, the CHP, led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has sided with the government coalition on the issue of challenging the sovereignty of Greek islands in the Aegean.

Specifically, Kilicdaroglu called on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his coalition government with Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli to proceed with the island issues, creating a common front in Turkey.

Athens has interpreted Kilicdaroglu’s hardline stance as linked to the fierce pre-election campaign in Turkey and also due to the opportunistic and nationalistic alliance of the six parties that form the united opposition against Erdogan and his ruling AKP.

Athens says Ankara knows very well that Athens also has red lines, but also a way and a will to defend them.

Turkey this week reiterated its demands that Greece must demilitarize its east Aegean islands, saying Ankara will challenge their sovereignty otherwise. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went as far as presenting a map of 16 islands whose sovereignty could be challenged by Turkey.

Kilicdaroglu made his comments in response to a series of public questions posed by Erdogan, questioning his patriotism. 

One of them concerned Greek-Turkish relations.

“Are you with Turkey or not in its efforts to create permanent economic zones along the border in the Mediterranean and the Aegean?” Erdogan asked.

Kilicdaroglu responded to the Turkish president with a Twitter post, saying it “is imperative to increase the pressure in the Mediterranean and the Aegean.” 

He went on to say it is not enough for Turkey to send out a ship then withdraw it and “wishing [US President Joe] Biden would call me.”

He urged Erdogan to make the necessary moves in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus and the Greek islands that are militarized.

“We will support you,” he said. 

Kilicdaroglu and opposition parties had recently come under fire from pro-government media for “expressing the positions of Greece.”

His position on Greek-Turkish relations carries weight as he is considered one of Erdogan’s potential rivals in the 2023 presidential election. Other Turkish leaders with a hard line on foreign policy are IYI (Good) Party leader Meral Aksene and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas, who is now a member of the CHP and rumored as potential candidate for president.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu is also member of the CHP, and amid this wave of nationalism it is unlikely he won’t agree with the positions of his president.

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