Athens is charting its course with regard to relations with Ankara in the face of fresh threats launched by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the aftermath of the “historic” agreement on the partial demarcation of Greece’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with Egypt, which has changed the balance in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In a meeting he chaired on Friday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis evaluated the announcement of Ankara’s withdrawal from the process of exploratory contacts that were to start on August 28 as well as Erdogan’s statement that “we will repeat the drilling activities” and he had sent the Barbaros vessel “again on a mission.”
In view of this, Athens and the Hellenic Armed Forces have been placed on full alert, as an escalation by Ankara cannot be ruled out.
Within this context, Athens also anticipates that a new navigational telex could be issued by Ankara, similar to the one for the Oruc Reis survey vessel for research within the Greek continental shelf, which brought the two countries to the brink of conflict last month.
If that does occur, the Greek fleet will deploy as it did in response to the Oruc Reis, sending out the message that exploratory activities will not be allowed on Greece’s continental shelf.
Against this background, Greece is working on the following three scenarios: Firstly, that Turkey’s suspension of exploratory contacts is only temporary, so as not to appear that it will start a dialogue immediately after a diplomatic defeat – inflicted with the signing of the Greece-Egypt agreement on their EEZs.
Another scenario is that Ankara uses the agreement between Athens and Cairo in order to torpedo the process of exploratory contacts which it was pressured to acquiesce to by Berlin. However, Ankara would at the same time seek to tread carefully so as not escalate tensions further.
The third scenario is one where Erdogan “overreacts” and escalates tensions, testing relations to the extreme. Athens is reportedly preparing for any eventuality.
However, the trend of increasing refugee flows from the Turkish coast in recent days has not gone unnoticed, and neither has the further slide of the Turkish economy.
Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that Erdogan will try to “export” his domestic woes. Alternatively, in view of these problems, there is also a chance that talks will be held with Athens at a later date and that Ankara will seek support from the European Union, and in particular from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.