Imia Crisis: Ankara is provoking while Athens is numb

14 February 2018
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The Greek government seems surprised by the unexpected escalation of the Turkish provocations, as Ankara seems to seek to change the status quo of the Imia rocks and essentially present them from a “no man’s land-grey zone”, as they considered until now the two islets to be, to “Turkish islands”.

This is a qualitative change in Turkey’s aspirations, based on the situation that has been created lately, and especially after the dramatic episode in the dawn of Tuesday, when a Turkish warship attempted to sink a vessel of the Hellenic Coast Guard near Imia, something that was avoided at the last moment and only thanks to the quick maneuvering of the Greek captain.

According to valid information, the Greek military leadership suggested that there should be a direct retaliation to the Turkish action in order to recover and maintain the “balance of power” in the region.

The same information suggests that this idea was in principle shared by the Defense Ministry’s political leadership, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras rejected it categorically, apparently on the assumption that a completely uncontrollable situation would be caused.

In any case, Athens has chosen a calm attitude, irrespective of whether it is related to the element of surprise. The Greek government seems to be of the opinion that this is the reasonable answer to an unpredictable factor, as the Erdogan regime appears to be. However, it seems that the next steps are not easy for the Greek government, which, erroneously, estimated that the provocation of the Turkish side was more for internal consumption and was not a real effort for a crisis in the Aegean. Especially Erdogan’s war-type threats (“do not make the wrong move in the Aegean and Cyprus”), form an explosive landscape and limit the possibilities for a purely domestic political game by the Turkish president.

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