Athens aims to defuse tension in face of Ankara’s incendiary rhetoric

Athens aims to defuse tension in face of Ankara’s incendiary rhetoric

In the wake of recent incendiary rhetoric emanating from Ankara, in particular from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Athens insisted on Tuesday that it is determined to de-escalate tensions and pursue good-neighborly relations.

These intentions were articulated in remarks by Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos and Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis.

“Our aim is not to escalate tension but to de-escalate it,” Katrougalos said on Tuesday, while Apostolakis noted that that if the statements that are made daily were taken stock of, “we would achieve nothing.”

“We are determined to reduce tensions,” Apostolakis added.

The two ministers made their comments after the Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced a Greek Foreign Ministry statement on Monday – that berated incendiary comments by Erdogan during a rally in Izmir at the weekend – as “incompatible with good-neighborly relations.”

Erdogan had referred to the Greek-Turkish war in Asia Minor in 1922 and hailed Izmir for “throwing the infidels into the sea.”

The Greek Foreign Ministry described Erdogan’s comments as “unacceptable references that undermine the trust we hope to build between our countries which are not in line with the European perspective that the Turkish leadership claims to support.”

However, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry argued Tuesday that Greece’s reaction to Erdogan’s comments “disregards the historical facts such as Greece’s past attempt to occupy Anatolia and the compensation it paid to Turkey due to the destruction and damage inflicted on Anatolia by its army.”

“As such, the statement is very unfortunate and incompatible with the good-neighborly relations as well as the environment of trust that we try to develop with this country,” it said.

The recent escalation in Turkey’s rhetoric is seen in Athens to be an indirect response to Wednesday's trilateral summit in Jerusalem between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and presidents Benjamin Netanyahu and Nicos Anastasiades of Israel and Cyprus.

The summit will also be attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which according to Israeli Ambassador in Cyprus Sammy Revel “is a strong sign of support for the trilateral framework and for the increased cooperation between our countries.”

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