Turkey is in no rush but it very rarely deviates from its foreign policy goals, which it makes a point of announcing and then proceeds to implement. The exploration license in the area south of Kastellorizo was issued to the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) in 2012.
Then in 2014, Federica Mogherini – the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs at the time – was informed during her first official visit to Ankara that Turkey was planning to conduct seismic surveys in the area off the coast of the Greek island. These are all well-documented events. The surveys had been announced and should therefore not be treated as a surprise today. Indeed, Athens expected Ankara to go ahead with its provocative plan but it expected the move to take place at a later date, most likely in September.
But Turkey has its own timetable. It waited until just after the European Union summit in Brussels and the end of marathon negotiations for the EU Recovery Fund. It noticed the reluctance of our EU partners to discuss the issue of Turkish violations in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean in the context of the meeting on the post-coronavirus recovery package.
The addresses given to their EU counterparts by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during the summit session remained without a response. Even French President Emmanuel Macron, who has maintained a tough stance towards Turkey, was silent. Ankara rushed to issue a Navtex, and Greece and Cyprus followed suit. This is leading to an extremely dangerous concentration of naval forces in the area, reminiscent of the 1996 Imia crisis. Greece and Turkey are facing off.
Mitsotakis, meanwhile, announced a series of meetings for today with the leaders of the opposition to brief them on the latest developments in Greek-Turkish relations and the government’s position. In the midst of what is an acrimonious political environment, he will seek the support of party leaders and he will receive it – at least formally.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the other hand, has vehement political opponents who openly want his downfall but there has been no domestic disagreement over his foreign policy decisions. Over in Greece, meanwhile, we will be counting down the days to August 2, when Ankara’s Navtex expires.