Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared once again provocative towards Greece during a speech to his supporters in Sakarya, the region where the Greek Army lost a decisive battle during the Asia Minor Campaign in August 1921.
Specifically, Erdogan, using hate rhetoric hit back at the recent remarks of his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos who warned those threatening Greece’s sovereignty and called on Turkey to respect the International Law, the Treaty of Lausanne and the Sea Law.
In the latest of a series of hate speeches the Turkish President said the Greek population of Asia Minor “escaped from becoming salted fish” by “jumping into the sea”: “Those who want to refresh their memories should look at their recent history. Those who speak words bigger than their stature should first read history books. Let them learn how they escaped from becoming salted fish in Sakarya, and how they fled from here by jumping into the sea.”
Erdogan’s unexampled delirium was referring to the Battle of the Sangarios (or Sakarya) between August and September 1921 which is considered the turning point of the Greco-Turkish War as, despite the Greek Pyrrhic victory, the advance to Ankara halted and the Greek forces withdrew to the west.
From the island of Nisyros which he visited last Wednesday on the occasion of the 70th anniversary since the integration of the Dodecanese to Greece, Pavlopoulos said that “Greece wishes the friendship and good neighbourly relations with Turkey and thus supports its [future] membership in the European Union, but respect of the borders includes respect of all International Laws, the Lausanne Treaty, the Treaty of Paris and the Law of the Sea”. This is the sole basis on which Greece can build its friendship with Turkey, he underlined.
Moreover, though, Pavlopoulos stressed that Greeks will defend their sovereignty, as their ancestors have done in the past: “We do not want it, but if history forces us, we will do it as our ancestors did”, he said adding that throughout his term he will do the outmost in order to defend the Greekness of the Dodecanese, the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Greece and the European Union.
In a recent article, hosted by al-Monitor, by Cengiz Candarthe near future indicates at least an escalation of hostile verbal intercourse. Some also voice concern that Erdogan might escalate the Aegean conflict with Greece to show its displeasure over NATO's — namely, Washington's — stance on Syrian Kurdish groups.
The author notes that any friction between Turkey and Greece would inevitably become a NATO problem, adding that for an increasingly nationalist Turkish regime, which needs animosity and even confrontational relations with the West to consolidate its support, a confrontation with Greece, given its deep historical background, is functional.
Notis Papadopoulos, writing in Greek daily Kathimerini, wrote, “Greece has suddenly found itself facing a crisis in the Aegean against a Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who keeps adding fuel to the fire on every front. Turkey has rammed a Greek patrol boat near the Imia islets and prevented drilling in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, and now it is sending to trial two Greek soldiers in an unnecessary escalation of a commonplace incident on the Greek-Turkish border."