April 19, 2018
Greece fears escalation after Erdogan calls snap polls
Amid a new spike in tensions between Greece and Turkey over the Aegean Islands, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision yesterday to call snap elections for June 24 intensified Greek concerns over the bilateral relations. Some fear that the nationalistic sabre-rattling could fuel further claims against Greece, others hope that the rise in provocations might ebb away after the elections, so Kathimerini.
The latest tensions were caused by Turkey's response to a Commission paper regarding its EU membership prospect. In a letter Turkey condemned the EU for seeking to arbitrate in the case of a territorial dispute with Greece as unacceptable. Turkey insisted that the Imia islets, which Greece considers its territory, is exclusively under Turkish sovereignty. The Greek government responded immediately that Greek sovereignty over Imia is clear and beyond doubt, according to the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, the Italian-Turkish Agreements of 1932, and the 1947 Treaty of Paris.
But the government is clearly alarmed about Turkish rhetoric escalation, and nervous not to pour more oil onto the fire. Defence minister Panos Kammenos tuned his own rhetoric down by saying that the government's position is expressed by the prime minister. The government's spokesman also warned Greeks to avoid flashpoints, such as the one apparently created by three young Greeks who placed a flag on a rocky outcrop off Fourni which the Turks claim their coast guard took down – an incident that Athens insists did not happen.
An escalation of tensions with Turkey will be a challenge for Alexis Tsipras and his government for the coming months. It will absorb much of its capacity and reveal the cracks in the coalition. It will be decisive for Tsipras to keep the Greek response on an even keel to avoid lasting domestic damage or even an international incident with unforeseeable consequences, warns Macropolis.