OPINION

Turkish provocation

Turkey has escalated its provocations in the Aegean Sea to a dangerous level. Following 145 violations of Athens’s Flight Information Region (FIR), air space intrusions and dogfights on Friday, two Turkish F16 planes overstepped the mark yesterday when they harassed an Olympic Airways passenger plane traveling from Athens to Istanbul. Ankara knows that its bullying will not leave Athens unmoved. Indeed, while Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis first said only that «we are aware of the incident» and «we want to express strong concern and worry over the new incident,» later remarks by the government’s spokesman were far sharper. «This act shows the provocative nature of the Turkish military regime and its efforts to fabricate tension,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas said. Furthermore, while Beglitis tried to take the blame away from the Turkish political elite saying that «the Turkish military’s behavior is in full contradiction to the Turkish government’s objective to approach the EU,» Protopappas was very critical of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. «Turkey’s political elite must choose. Does it or does it not want to join the EU? If it does, it must take measures for this. If it does not want (to join the EU) and wants to continue with this intransigent stance, or identifies with what the military establishment is doing, it will come into conflict with its people and its own declarations,» Protopappas said. The spokesman rightly took note of Erdogan’s affinity with the military as regards Greek-Turkish relations. «It was not us that backed down, but Simitis,» Erdogan told a newspaper interview, in effect blaming Athens for a failure to settle the Cyprus issue. «The sooner the procedure regarding (accession to) the European Union moves ahead and becomes reality, the sooner will the Aegean problem be solved. That is what the Aegean problem is about,» Erdogan added. However, the Aegean disputes are exclusively the result of Turkish aggressiveness and of Ankara’s unilateral claims, and not of the fact that Turkey has not yet joined the EU. The cessation of Turkey’s aggression is a sine qua non precondition for the country’s EU membership. Athens must make it known that it will by no means consent to Turkey’s EU accession should Turkey continue its aggressive behavior.