Tensions with Turkey seen continuing

Greek officials convinced Erdogan will maintain strategy until elections in both countries

Tensions with Turkey seen continuing

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his close aides are convinced that tensions with Turkey will remain high at least until the elections that both countries face around the middle of next year.

Greece is facing one, and very likely two, parliamentary elections, while Turkey will elect both a president and parliament.

The Greek government’s four-year term expires in July, but Kathimerini understands that the earliest possible date for a new election is April 2, although the likeliest dates are May 21 or 28.

Mitsotakis and his aides are convinced that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will persist in keeping tensions high, and that a “hot” incident cannot be excluded. They believe that Erdogan will not be able to turn around the negative polls and will be defeated in the June election. But the Turkish Constitution allows him to postpone the election from six to 12 month in case of war or another emergency.

Greek officials see this week’s first meeting of the European Political Community (EPC), a club that also includes non-EU countries, as a first opportunity to gauge Erdogan’s intentions – if he attends, that is. Although he has been invited, it is still uncertain whether the Turkish president will actually travel to Prague to attend. Although a Turkish official taking part in an EPC preparatory meeting in Brussels avoided any tension, or any mention of the issues between Greece and Turkey, Mitsotakis is determined to highlight Turkey’s aggressive posturing at the Prague meeting.

Greek officials believe Erdogan could try to repeat his 2020 attempt to create a migration crisis by pushing migrants end refugees toward the Greek border. Alternately, he could revisit the 1996 Imia scenario, in which individuals set foot on a Greek islet, of supposedly contested sovereignty, followed by Turkish troops; he could also use a hydrocarbons research ship to activate the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, of dubious legality. What Greece considers unlikely is Turkish naval forces blockading an island demanding its demilitarization.

One worry is that Erdogan could provoke a major crisis in the space between the, likely, two Greek elections, when a caretaker government will be in place, as the parliament elected after the first election will have no single party with an overall majority and a coalition looks extremely unlikely at present.

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