Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s habit of lashing out at foreign leaders, including Greek ones of course, is hard to understand sometimes; the Turkish president obviously feels that he is invincible and has the right to insult and threaten whomever he chooses.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis became the most recent target of his ire, when, in a speech to his party’s parliamentary group, Erdoğan accused the Greek prime minister of “challenging” him.
“Mitsotakis challenged me. How can we sit down with you now? Know your limits first. If you really seek peace, don’t challenge me. Know your limits. If you don’t know your limits, it means you’re the one who kicked the table, who left the table. We did not leave the table. And if you carry on like this, we will not be able to sit at the table,” he said, referring to ongoing exploratory talks between the two sides.
Beyond his ramblings about “knowing your limits” and the threatening tone, what Erdoğan is saying, essentially, is that Turkey cannot sit at the table as equals with Greece. If this is the case, then it is clearly him leaving the table – and there will be consequences.
Drunk on the notion of a grand Turkey that is not limited to its present borders, the leadership in Ankara feels justified in his criticism of Greek officials for visiting Greek islands. Referring to Mitsotakis’ recent visit to islands in the eastern Aegean, Erdoğan “warned” that no one will help Greece and sent a message to the Greek prime minister that he’ll get to know the “crazy Turks well.”
As for the Cyprus issue, he stated that a two-state solution is the only way forward from now on. “Whether you accept it or not, there can no longer be such a thing as a federation… That business is finished now,” he said.
What prompted this reaction by the Turkish strongman? Well, during his recent visit to Nicosia and in reference to the exploratory talks that began in Istanbul and are expected to continue in Athens, Mitsotakis stated the obvious: that Greece is coming into the talks “with sincere intent, cautious optimism and zero naivety.”
As for the upcoming five-party Cyprus meeting in New York, he noted again the obvious and well-known position, that the only solution being considered is the bizonal, bicommunal federation.
These are the awful “challenges” the Greek prime minister made, provoking the Turkish president’s rant.
Erdoğan’s behaviour has an expiration date. If he does not rein it in and opt for the path of reason and moderation, he will soon have to pay the price – this may be financial at first but will eventually take a political toll as well.
(A version of this article was originally published by Kathimerini and reproduced by permission.)