Recep Erdogan, the President of Turkey, is not backing down from his country’s intimidating behavior towards Greece. This, from a nation that is supported by NATO and wants to be a full part of the European Union. From the Greek publication Greek Reporter:
After a four-and-a-half hour session in Ankara, the country’s Security Council decided to not [pay] heed to the EU warnings about Turkey’s provocative behavior against Greece in the Aegean and in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
Turkey claims that certain Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean belong to Turkey and challenge the Lausanne Treaty. At the same time, they don’t recognize Cyprus’ right to explore for gas and oil and claim that Turkish Cypriots of Cyprus’ northern occupied part have equal rights to the [Exclusive Economic Zone, or] EEZ.
On Monday, Erdogan met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in Varna, Bulgaria and discussed issues pertaining to the Mediterranean. In particular they talked about the refugee issue, Turkey’s accession to the European Union, and Turkey’s behavior towards EU Member States Greece and Cyprus.
Juncker and Tusk said that Turkey’s challenging the sovereignty of certain Greek islands in the Aegean and its blocking of exploratory ships in Cyprus’ EEZ do not constitute good neighborly behavior for a country that wants to be part of the EU.
During the meeting, Turkish officials said that it is Greece’s attitude that does not constitute good neighborly behavior, according to Turkish media. It was decided that Turkey will continue to protect its interests and defend its rights at any cost.
Regarding Turkish military operations in northern Syria, the country’s Security Council also decided that they should continue unabated.
This behavior from President Erdogan is undoubtedly aggressive, and his behavior towards the Greeks is one example of several situations this leader has been bellicose about. In addition to threatening Greece, he has also alternately threatened Russia, the United States and Syrian interests, due to his wish to get rid of the Kurds along the Syrian – Turkish border at Afrin.
In addition, according to this report from The National, Erdogan has raised threats against Iraq as well.
Had this been a case of mere patriotism, it would not matter as much. But Mr Erdogan’s fantasies are dictating Turkey’s foreign policy. Having breached the sovereignty of Syria by deploying his forces in Afrin, he is now threatening to intervene militarily in Sinjar in northern Iraq.
Mr Erdogan’s threat on Monday to the sovereign government of Iraq, threatening to do “what is necessary” if Ankara’s wishes weren’t immediately fulfilled by Baghdad, was delivered with the hauteur of a sultan. The president’s claims that he is taking action against insurgents from the Kurdish Workers’ Party does not legitimise his aggression. Mr Erdogan is plainly pushing to see what he can get away with; he is effectively justifying Turkey stamping on the sovereignty of other nations.
How long will the international community tolerate this egregious behaviour? Certainly, Ankara’s aspirations to become a part of the European Union, stalled for a decade and all but obselete, were further frustrated at a summit on Monday in Bulgaria, where EU leaders ranked Mr Erdogan’s propensity for illegal foreign interventions among their chief concerns but fell short of outright censure.
Looks like Mr. Erdogan has established himself as the latest new troublemaker in a part of the world that already has a lot of problems. As with other nations in the Middle East, the politics are very complex, but one this is certain: When a leader insists that his country’s “rights” will not be infringed, it is very difficult to negotiate a true peaceful solution to anything.