Crisis in the Aegean: Ready for everything despite the de-escalation in Kastelorizo

27 July 2020
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The tensions caused by Turkey in its relations with Greece seems to be de-escalating after the constant pressure of Germany, France, the United States, but also Russia.

The international mobilization in order to prevent Tayyip Erdogan from taking the step of launching seismic surveys in the area south of Kastelorizo ​​translates in one way: Europeans and Americans took the Greek “red lines” seriously, realizing that they are not empty words, but a real strategic decision to take military action in the event that the Turkish ship “Oruc Reis” or any other research vessel undertakes seismic surveys in an area of ​​the Greek continental shelf. “The time has come”, a senior government official told Proto Thema on Tuesday afternoon when the Turkish NAVTEX announced that they would carry out seismic work in a large sea area south of Kastelorizo ​​for 13 days, until Sunday 2 August.

Almost in parallel with the announcement that the “Oruc Reis” with the Turkish-flagged ships “Ataman” and “Cengiz” were going to start seismic investigations, the Ministry of National Defense ordered immediate departure of all the Hellenic Navy units from its Naval Bases. In less than two 24 hours the entire Greek fleet was at sea, deployed to the southern and eastern Aegean, the area of ​​Kastelorizo ​​and the areas between Crete and the area where the Turks planned to begin research. At the same time, the Turkish side, having the initiative of the movements, ordered the departure of more than 20 warships, which departed from the port of Aksaz in the direction of the area from Rhodes to Kastelorizo ​​and to the southwest.

Coincidentally, on Tuesday, July 21, the German Foreign Minister was in Athens at the invitation of Nikos Dendias. After talks with the head of Greek diplomacy, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the President of the Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Haiko Maas realized that the NAVTEX 0979/20 of the Antalya coastal station was bringing Greece and Turkey to the brink of war. A few hours later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel first called Kyriakos Mitsotakis and then Tayyip Erdogan, taking immediate action before the situation got out of control. According to reports, in her communication with Angela Merkel, Mr. Mitsotakis explained that the escalation was created unilaterally by Turkey and simply conveyed his government’s decision to defend Greek sovereign rights in any way, even by taking military action, if research ships were beginning research in an area above the Greek continental shelf.

After the Prime Minister of Greece, the Chancellor of Germany called the President of Turkey. Mrs Merkel and the German government are considered credible mediators of the Turkish regime not only because they have pursued a policy of appeasement in Ankara for many years or because of German investments in Turkey, but mainly because Berlin was supporting Turkey within the EU in order to stop sanctions on Turkey. This is a financial retaliation that the Greek government has pressed for both in the European-Turkish relations and in the Turkish tourism sector.

Reliable information states that Angela Merkel warned Tayyip Erdogan that if the Turkish ships start seismic surveys in Kastelorizo ​​and a hot incident is caused with Greece then the management of the situation will become very difficult.

The message from Berlin to Ankara was that in the event that a Turkish seismic survey spark a military confrontation with Greece, then the 27 EU member states will be obliged to assist Athens and at the same time to activate sanctions that will crush the Turkish economy. It is noted that on Friday, German Foreign Minister Haiko Maas sent a new loud message to Erdogan stating that the decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque is incomprehensible and does not help to have a normal dialogue between the EU and Turkey.

“I very much doubt that Erdogan backed down with a phone call from Merkel, unless he secured something specific”, the diplomat said, adding: Is it possible for the President of Turkey to step back without consideration? He will not attack you, he intends to provoke you to hit him”.

Another official notes that the objective of the government’s tactics is to increase the economic and political costs that Turkey will have to pay if it continues to pull the strings, pushing the situation to the extreme. “You do not know what Erdogan is thinking”, the source said, adding that “since the Americans seem to have left the Eastern Mediterranean, there is a problem”.

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