Erdogan seen pursuing carrot, stick approach

Erdogan seen pursuing carrot, stick approach

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be pursuing a carrot-and-stick approach to Greece as he stressed Friday that the withdrawal of the Oruc Reis research vessel from an area south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo was done in order to make way for diplomacy while at the same time warning that Turkey, if need be, will shows its military might.

“Why did we withdraw the Oruc Reis? To give diplomacy a chance with a positive step. Let Greece welcome our positive approach and we will take a corresponding step,” he told reporters on Friday.

However, he also stressed that the withdrawal of the Oruc Reis was done for maintenance and repair reasons and that it will not stop its research activities. Once the maintenance work has ended, he said, “it will return to its position and continue its work there.” He also took a swipe at Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou over her visit last week to Kastellorizo. “If the Greek president is going to come to the island and demonstrate power, we will do much more,” he said.

Meanwhile, referring to his recent contacts with European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the Spanish and Italian premiers, Pedro Sanchez and Giuseppe Conte respectively, he implied to reporters that he told all four that the agenda of talks between Greece and Turkey should include far more issues than maritime zones, which Greece has repeatedly insisted is the only issue up for discussion.

For its part, Athens expressed hope on Friday via its government spokesman Stelios Petsas that the de-escalation by Turkey with the withdrawal of the Oruc Reis was done in earnest and noted that Greece wants to see the resumption of exploratory contacts that were suspended in March of 2016.