Greece said that Europe and NATO should crack down on Turkey and its inflammatory rhetoric or risk another situation like Ukraine.
The Greek government sent letters to NATO, the United Nations and the European Union earlier this week complaining about aggressive comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which it said were “unprovoked, unacceptable and an insult against Greece and the Greek people.” The organisations should condemn Turkey’s behaviour, it said, according to copies of the letters obtained by the Greek media.
“By not doing so in time or by underestimating the seriousness of the matter, we risk witnessing again a situation similar to that currently unfolding in some other part of our continent,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in his letters dated Monday and Tuesday.
“The Turkish attitude is a destabilising factor for NATO’s unity and cohesion, weakening the southern flank of the Alliance at a moment of crisis,” he said in a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Erdoğan, who is preparing for elections that must be held by June next year, has intensified his rhetoric against Greece over the past week accusing his neighbour of a military build-up on Greek islands near Turkey’s coastline that he says Athens is also occupying.
“We can come suddenly one night,” he said on Saturday. On Tuesday, he said “our patience has a limit”, and referred to “illegitimate threats” emanating from bases on islands that Greece has “in their possession.”
Erdoğan has frustrated his fellow NATO members by cosying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin — the two leaders continue their close relations and Turkey has refused to implement sanctions on Moscow — and by slowing the accession to the alliance of Sweden and Finland.
Dendias said that Erdoğan’s words toward Greece were of an “openly threatening nature and tone” and went beyond the rhetoric that might be considered electioneering.
Greece and Turkey, both NATO members, have been embroiled in disputes over territory and airspace in the Aegean, as well as hydrocarbon exploration rights in the Mediterranean, which in 2020 prompted a face-off between ships of the two countries’ navies.
A diplomatic impasse over the future of ethnically divided Cyprus — Erdoğan now rules out a U.N.-backed solution based on uniting the island — has added to the tensions.
Erdoğan, who controls the second-largest standing army in NATO, was angered in May when Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged U.S. lawmakers to reject a request by Turkey to modernise its fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft. Erdoğan cut off bilateral talks and declared Mitsotakis persona non grata. Military tensions, including accusations of airspace infringements, soon intensified.
Earlier this week, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said Greek sovereignty of islands in the Aegean and Mediterranean was not open to question. The EU said Erdoğan’s comments were unhelpful and aggressive.
“Threats and aggressive rhetoric need to stop,” Peter Stano, spokesman for European Union Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell, said in a written statement on Monday.
Turkey said this week that it sent letters to the EU, NATO and the United Nations on Sept. 1 accusing Greece of engaging in “unlawful actions” and making “maximalist demands”.