“There is an urgent need for the EU to play its role in the region. What are at stake is European sovereignty and the strategic independence of the EU.
De-escalation must be achieved at once. And it must originate from those causing tensions. All Turkish vessels, both military and survey, must be withdrawn immediately, given that their presence constitutes a violation of sovereign rights.”
During the briefing of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, on September 10th, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis described Turkey’s actions as “unilateral, illegal and provocative,” presenting evidence of Turkey’s on-going aggressiveness in the Eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, he called on the EU to heed the European Parliament and to send a firm and decisive message to Ankara that “there is no room for provocative and illegal actions and conduct”.
More specifically, while addressing the members of the Committee, Mr. Varvitsiotis underlined that these actions seriously jeopardise peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. As he said, “they flagrantly violate International Law and Greek sovereign rights, they deeply undermine the interests of the EU and they constitute not just another chapter in the turbulent relationship between Greece and Turkey, but a serious threat to the security architecture of the region”.
He clarified that Greece wants to resolve the dispute with Turkey on delimiting maritime zones in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean through dialogue and, should this prove unsuccessful, through jointly seeking recourse to the International Court of Justice in The Hague – but not in the midst of threats. “We do not want to solve this problem through the use of arms. This dialogue cannot take place under military pressure and threats”, he noted, adding: “Dialogue under threat is blackmail”.
He further underlined that the Summit must send a decisive and strong message to Ankara that “you have limited time to change your course” in order for Turkey to cease its provocations and resume the dialogue. “There is an urgent need for the EU to play its role in the region. What are at stake is European sovereignty and the strategic independence of the EU. De-escalation must be achieved at once. And it must originate from those causing tensions. All Turkish vessels, both military and survey, must be withdrawn immediately, given that their presence constitutes a violation of sovereign rights,” stressed the Alternate Minister.
As regards the issue of sanctions, he emphasised that these must be smart, effective and target the Turkish state – which must change its course of action – rather than Turkish citizens, who do not support President Erdoğan’s aggressive stance, as indicated by the relevant opinion polls.
More specifically, Mr. Varvitsiotis briefed the Committee on the provocative actions and aggressiveness of Turkey, which is violating the sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus, for instance, through its illegal drilling within the Cypriot EEZ and the memorandum between Turkey and Libya, with which “it shares no common borders by any stretch of the imagination”. He referred in detail to the incidents involving what he called the inhumane instrumentalisation of migrants in Evros, the successive NAVTEXs concerning the surveys of Oruc Reis and the dispatch of the Turkish fleet to this region of the Eastern Mediterranean. He further stressed that Greece was also forced to send its fleet to the region and a military engagement was avoided solely thanks to restraint.
He made it clear that Greece’s purported refusal to engage in dialogue is fake news, denouncing Turkey’s aggressive rhetoric concerning “Greece’s supposedly maximalist pursuits”. He characterised Turkey as a destabilising factor in the region and presented a map of Turkey’s ‘blue homeland’ (pictured above: the provocative and aggressive neo-Ottomanistic imaginary map) that includes sections containing half the Aegean Sea and half the Greek islands. He gave a detailed description of Turkey’s military involvement in conflicts in Libya, Syria, Iraq, the Caucasus and its support for Hamas. He further recalled the offensive rhetoric employed by the Turkish leadership against the Greek Prime Minister and other EU leaders, and accused Turkey of fostering a nationalist, populist and Islamist front, citing the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque as an example.
Further addressing the members of the Committee, he stated that Ankara is acting more and more as a “revisionist force” that will not hesitate to use military force as a means of imposing its foreign policy objectives, threatening war, distorting reality and poisoning public opinion in Turkey.
He also presented the MEPs with a list of events that occurred in recent months, as well as a timeline of threats by President Erdoğan and other Turkish officials which, as he stated, constitute hate speech.
Furthermore, the Alternate Minister welcomed Germany’s initiative, noting that “we aim for European solidarity”, but making it clear that, if necessary, we will defend our sovereign rights “even on our own”. He noted that Greece will not be the one to cause a military incident, but it will not abandon Kastellorizo and the Greeks living on the island.
In response to MEPs’ questions regarding the Cyprus issue, he stated that “the withdrawal of Turkish forces is a prerequisite for resolving the Cyprus issue” and that “you cannot have a unified Cyprus, an EU Member State, with the presence of 30,000 Turkish soldiers,” adding that “none of you would accept that in your own countries”.
Finally, with regard to the migrant centre in Moria, Alternate Minister Varvitsiotis stressed that the authorities are trying to provide refuge for the migrants, restore a sense of security on the island and limit any transmission of Covid-19 by those who tested positive for the virus.
Tensions between NATO allies Greece and Turkey have escalated in recent weeks, putting in peril Europe’s access to vast new energy deposits and further destabilise war-torn Libya and parts of the Middle East: Turkey sends a survey vessel, escorted by warships, to map out sea territory for possible oil and gas drilling in an area where Turkey and Greece both claim jurisdiction; mild collision of warships during a standoff in the eastern Mediterranean provoked by Turkey;
between 6 and 8 Turkish submarines were in the Aegean and the Mediterranean, far from the borders of the area declared by Turkey (1 was intercepted when it crossed the Kafirefs Strait between the islands of Euboea and Andros and approached the Attica region off Cape Sounio), others were located off Rhodes and Karpathos;
Greek fighter jets are constantly sent to ward off Turkish jets that invade the country’s airspace, resulting in dangerous mock dogfights.