Greece says Turkey economy at ‘very edge’, making conflict unlikely

Greece said Turkey’s economy was in a poor state, meaning the likelihood of military hostilities between the two neighbours was low.

An economic downturn and high levels of foreign debt in Turkey leave it exposed, a situation that contrasts with Greece, which benefits from financial support and political backing from the European Union, said Greek Development and Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis, according to the Greek City Times.

“In Turkey, the lira has taken a downturn and its economy is at the very edge,” Georgiadis said. “Turkey has to refinance $400 billion in debt this year. The last thing it needs is to have such a conflict.”

Political and military tensions between Greece and Turkey have intensified in recent years, exacerbated by the Syrian refugee crisis, disputes over common borders and Turkey’s regional ambitions, which now involve drilling for hydrocarbons off Cyprus.

Turkey’s economy has fallen back into contraction this year – activity had slumped following a currency crisis in 2018 - after the COVID-19 outbreak hit its tourism industry and key export markets in Europe. Greece, which is also highly reliant on foreign visitors and trade with the EU, has also suffered economically and received 2 billion euros of EU aid in April.

“A hot episode [with Turkey] would certainly hurt Greece and its attempt to recover. But Greece is at the core of the Eurozone and has the whole of Europe behind it with packages and a fairly protected economy,” Georgiadis said.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Greece was fully prepared to deal with any conflict that Turkey might create in the Aegean Sea, which is home to scores of Greek islands, many located just a few miles from Turkey’s coast. Greece regularly accuses Turkey of flying air force jets over its territory and mock dogfights between their airforces are not uncommon.

“They are unable to infringe on Greece’s sovereign rights,” Dendias said in a statement, referring to international law and the United Nations Charter Law of the Sea, according to the Greek City Times.