Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sharply criticized Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, amid fears that the two countries will return to a “deep escalation” that was close to a military confrontation before several mediations that succeeded in calming, but according to analysts, “it did not end the deep-rooted crisis.”
On the other side, Greece has warned that it will not allow the illegal entry of migrants by land or sea, after the recent sharp increase in attempts to enter through the Aegean islands and the land border with Turkey.
Athens registers increasing numbers of refugees at the Greek border. It was a pressure tactic that Erdogan already resorted to in 2020 at the river on Greece’s northeastern border, known in Greece as the Evros River.
Greece was on the front line of Europe’s migration crisis in 2015-2016 when a million refugees fleeing war and poverty from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrived mainly via Turkey.
F-16 Deal with the United States
Back to Turkey, in a speech after a cabinet meeting, Erdogan said Turkey had canceled the joint strategic council meeting with Greece, accusing the Greek prime minister of trying to block the F-16 deal with the United States, adding: “We had agreed not to involve third countries in our dispute.”
He continued, “We were going to hold this year the meeting of the Joint Strategic Council, there is no longer someone named Mitsotakis for me, and I do not accept holding a meeting like this with him at all, because we continue our path with honorable people who keep their vows.”
A dispute revolves between the two neighbors over a range of issues ranging from the airspace and maritime areas in the eastern Mediterranean and divided Cyprus, and the relationship of the two countries went through a major crisis in the summer of 2020 that almost led to a military confrontation with Turkey’s insistence on drilling for oil and gas in disputed territorial waters with Greece.
After a five-year hiatus and months of tension, the two sides agreed last year to resume talks in an effort to reach an understanding and allow formal negotiations to begin. Several exploratory talks have already taken place but little progress has been made.
The last meeting between Erdogan and Mitsotakis was last March, and the Turkish presidency announced at the time that the two sides agreed during their talks to improve bilateral relations despite the differences, while Athens spoke of a “positive atmosphere.”
A history of wars
Since the independence of Greece from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, the two countries have fought 4 wars, namely the War of 1897, the First Balkan War in 1912, World War I (1914-1918), and the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922).
After World War II, relations improved somewhat between the two countries, and they joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952, before tension erupted again against the background of a series of events, most notably the dispute over Cyprus and Turkish control over the north of the island in 1974, and tension over the Sea of Aegean.
Despite attempts at relative normalization in relations at the end of the last century, the contentious issues between the two sides seemed too big to be contained in any possible rapprochement, especially the differences over Northern Cyprus, which remained an obstacle in the way of improving relations until today.