Feb 02 2019

Erdoğan might target Greece, Cyprus for victory in March election - Kathimerini

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might create risks for Greece and Cyprus as local elections in Turkey approach, Nikos Konstandaras, the managing editor of the Greek daily Kathimerini said on Saturday.

In his column penned days before Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ two-day official visit to Turkey next week, Konstandaras said Turkish-Greek relations was one of the few areas that do not pose a risk for Erdoğan.

“For Greece and Cyprus, though, Turkey is always dangerous” the journalist said, adding that Ankara’s threats were not empty.

“On the contrary, Turkey is predictable, as it usually carries out its threats. The question is when it chooses to act and what can prevent this,” he added.

Konstandaras said Turkish government this week issued clear statements pointing its intents toward Athens and Nicosia.

On Wednesday, Turkey’s National Security Council said Ankara had been watching closely the developments in Cyprus, the Western Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Sea, taking action to protect its rights as given through international agreements

Ankara and Nicosia have been at odds over exploration and drilling of gas reserves around Cyprus. Turkey, the only country to recognise the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island, says Turkish Cypriots should also have a say in gas exploration and a share of any revenues. Turkey also has territorial claims overlapping with the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.

Nicosia, on the other hand, says Turkish Cypriots will get a fair share of any revenue after a peace deal to end the division of the island.

The security council on Wednesday also said that it was unacceptable that some countries had been refraining from extraditing terror group members. Ankara has repeatedly requested from Athens the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after a coup attempt in 2016.

Greece also hosts a high number of Turkish nationals that fled the country after the coup attempt, including members of the Gülen group accused of orchestrating the attempt and Kurdish dissidents.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday slammed a joint declaration adopted at the Fifth Summit of the Southern European Union Countries (Med7), held in Southern Cyprus on Jan. 29, calling it another example of the unfair and unconstructive attitude of certain EU members.

The leaders of the EU countries in their joint declaration called on Turkey to respect the sovereignty of Cyprus and refrain from threats or actions contrary to international law.

“The references to Cyprus, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean and the “Eight,” all against a backdrop of revisionism that includes criticism of the Treaty of Lausanne which established Turkey’s borders, are in line with Ankara’s consistent pursuit of reasons to keep the tension with Greece and Cyprus high,” said Konstandaras.

Erdogan is in constant need to present himself as a winner, according to Konstandaras, while Turkey is under the pressure of an economic recession in the country and the situation in Syria.

“As the local elections of March 31 approach, the Turkish president will be pressed to present victories to the electorate. This raises the danger of his seeking a way out at the expense of Greece and Cyprus,” Konstandaras said.