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Turkey Dismisses Report It Wanted To Provoke War By Sinking Greek Ship

Turkey and Greece have held military exercises in the east Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for dispute over extent of their continental shelves to escalate [Greek Defence Ministry/AP]

PortandTerminal.com, September 2, 2020

ANKARA, TURKEY – The German newspaper Die Welt claimed in a report on Tuesday that Turkish President Erdogan wanted to provoke a major military incident with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Erdogan’s goal was reportedly to provoke a military conflict with Greece and in doing so, help his own chances to survive politically. Faced with economic shambles in his country and weakening domestic support, the claim being put forward is that Erdogan is looking for a war to rally the country around its President.

The report, entitled “Erdogan’s calculated war,” said that “if it depended on the Turkish President, his navy would have sunk a Greek ship in the Mediterranean a long time ago.”

The paper said, citing Turkish military sources, Erdogan had asked Turkish generals a few days ago to sink a Greek ship and that they should do so ensuring that no one is killed in the process – too many lives would be risked.

When the generals refused, someone else suggested shooting down a Greek fighter, and the pilot could eject from the aircraft to save himself. But the Turkish generals again refused.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Wednesday dismissed the claims made by Die Welt saying that they were “completely fictional”.

“Instead of dealing with such unfounded news, the Greek authorities should end any moves that escalate tensions in the region”, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

Die Welt though is an influential and respected conservative German newspaper not known for being prone to histrionics. What’s going on?

What’s going on?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds a press conference
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish economy hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, contracted sharply in the second quarter, jeopardizing Erdogan’s central political pledge of rapidly reviving the nation’s economic prosperity.(AFP)

Greece and Turkey are currently locked in a bitter dispute over hydrocarbon resources part of the Mediterranean they each claim as their own territory.

The two NATO allies vehemently disagree over claims to hydrocarbon resources in the area based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands.

Greece, a member of the European Union, claims the waters are part of its continental shelf and has enlisted the support of the 27-nation bloc, which has condemned Turkey’s “illegal activities” and plans to blacklist Turkish officials linked to energy exploration.

Map: BBC News

Both sides have held military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for the dispute to escalate.

Erdogan, who has threatened Greece with military action, described Turkey’s activities in the eastern Mediterranean as the “pursuit of [its] rights and justice” and denounced what he said were Greek efforts to “imprison” Turkey to a small region surrounding its coast.

“Even if hostile fronts unite, they cannot stop the rise of Turkey. It’s laughable now to use as bait a country [Greece] – which could not even fight its way out of a paper bag – against a regional and global power like Turkey,”

Last week, the EU said it was preparing to impose sanctions on Turkey – including tough economic measures – unless progress is made in reducing soaring tensions with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

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