Greece’s hostile behavior against Turkey is in the balance of diplomacy

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Former US expert and diplomat Matt Bryza said it was shocking that Greece was involved in a “hostile act” against NATO ally Turkey.

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On August 23, Turkish fighters were harassed by the S-300 air defense system of Greece while carrying out missions in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.

The Turkish Ministry of Defense said that the Greek side harassed Turkish F16 fighters by tracking them with the radar of the “S-300” system installed on the island of Crete.

Bryza, a senior researcher at the Atlantic Council (a Washington-based think tank), described the incident as “another indication of an escalation” from Greece.

He said Athens rejects Ankara’s efforts to reduce tension between the two countries, which escalated in August 2020.

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In turn, Tudor Onia, an academic at the Department of International Relations at Bilkent University in Ankara, said that Greece is engaged in “provocative actions” towards Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean.

He added, “Both sides tried to play with the nerves of the other…Each of them is trying to bring the other back.”

He continued, “Of course, there is a difference. Turkey is a much bigger and stronger player in terms of population, economy and army, and it certainly has a heavy weight.”

“As Ankara has stated, it is clear that tracking Turkish fighters is a hostile act according to normal military procedures,” Bryza said.

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“It is shocking to me that one NATO ally would take such action against another NATO ally,” he added.

He continued, “Ankara tried to calm what Athens decided to escalate, and the tracking of the S-300 system of the Turkish aircraft is another indication of the escalation, such as the Greek side repelling the migrants in the Aegean Sea and returning them to the Turkish side.”

Regarding the Greek media’s claim that the incident was the result of Turkey’s decision to “provoke” Athens, the former diplomat said: “This is a completely false narrative… I think that the Greek political leadership is using fear of Turkey as a way to strengthen itself locally in the circles of Greek internal politics.”

As for Onia, he describes the nature of relations between the two countries as “friendly competitive”, considering that the real reason behind the competition is the discovery of natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean.

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He argued that this actually ignited the whole issue of a clear dividing line between the EEZs of Greece and Turkey.

While Turkey often criticizes NATO, including the United States, for not supporting it enough in its regional dispute with Greece, Onia pointed out that the areas of most concern to Washington at the moment are East Asia and Russia.

He added, “The United States does not want to blow up the situation further. It will resort to pressure on both parties to reach a kind of diplomatic settlement and not escalate tension to a dangerous degree that requires a serious response.”

He explained that the United States enjoys good relations with both sides to ensure peace in the region.

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For his part, Omer Ozkilcik, a Turkish security and foreign policy analyst, said that there are two factors that play an important role in the tense relationship between the two countries: “The first is the pressure power that Greece possesses, and the other is the decline in the Turkish pressure force in the United States.”

Ozkiziljek added that US Senator Bob Menendez was a “key element” in the Greek lobby and the harassment of fighters came immediately after a visit he made to Greece.

He explained that the Armenian and Greek lobbies, along with the influence of terrorist organizations such as “Gülen” and “PKK”, have reduced the strength of Turkish pressure in the United States, although Ankara is right on many issues, noting that Greece succeeded in filling this gap in its favor.

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Greece violated Turkey’s airspace and territorial waters more than 1,100 times in the first eight months of this year, according to sources in the Turkish Defense Ministry.

Turkey, a NATO member for more than 70 years, has also complained about Greece’s repeated rhetoric and provocative actions in the region in recent months, including its arming of islands near Turkish shores, saying such moves frustrate its efforts for peace.

Ozkizilcik noted that the United States gave India an exemption from the sanctions against the background of its purchase of Russian S400 missile systems, while Turkey did not grant the same exception.

He added: “Since the United States wanted to focus on China, it gave an exception to India according to its own laws to achieve balance with China, so Washington does not want to harm its relations with New Delhi.”

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He continued, “Instead of wanting to balance with Russia, the United States preferred to balance with China, and there is a geopolitical interest behind that.”

Washington has long tried to deter countries from buying military equipment from Russia, threatening them with punitive measures under the Countering America’s Adversaries with Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

However, when Moscow and New Delhi signed a $5.5 billion deal to buy the S-400 system in 2018, the US Congress this year recommended excluding India from sanctions.

The Turkish official saw that the Indian lobby in the United States was another factor active as effectively as the Israeli and Greek lobby.

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He added that the US House of Representatives and the Senate are institutions primarily subject to the influence of lobbies and that they “are intent on protecting the interests of other countries, not the United States.”