Ankara sends out mixed messages

Ankara sends out mixed messages

Officials in Athens are trying to make sense of what they see as erratic behavior emanating from Ankara, which on the one hand is requesting a moratorium on military exercises in the Aegean due to the coronavirus pandemic, and on the other is continuing its tactic of low-level tensions regarding the Greek islands.

Turkey’s behavior was also raised on Wednesday by Alternate Migration Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos during talks with Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri.

Koumoutsakos stressed the issue of Turkish Coast Guard vessels escorting boats with refugees toward Greek territorial waters. 

The latest incident was Wednesday morning, when the Hellenic Coast Guard spotted a boat with migrants northeast of the island of Lesvos which unsuccessfully tried to enter Greek territorial waters with the help of the Turkish Coast Guard. 

Also on Wednesday, Turkish F-16 jets entered the Athens Flight Information Region and flew over Psara and Antipsara, the Hellenic National Defense General Staff said. 

Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos reportedly told Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar recently that Ankara’s stance was to blame for the lack of agreement in recent talks on confidence-building measures.

However, despite Ankara’s tactic of maintaining low-intensity tensions, it has effectively suspended the promotion of its Blue Homeland project, which envisions an extension of its influence over large areas of the Mediterranean. 

Moreover, apart from its warships off the coast of Libya and its air force, which remains active, though in smaller numbers, Turkey’s military is relatively subdued, which is thought to be due to the pandemic and the dire state of the Turkish economy. 

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