Greece says Turkish rhetoric risks escalation NATO can't afford
Bloomberg September 7, 2022
Greece accused Turkey of "extremely aggressive rhetoric" that risks destabilizing the region and weakening NATO, the latest bout in an escalating war of words between the two NATO allies over tensions in the Aegean Sea.
"We risk witnessing again a situation similar to that currently unfolding in some other part of our Continent," Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias wrote in letters -- dated Monday but published on Wednesday -- to the European Union, United Nations and NATO.
Dendias called for condemnation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent comments about Greece, which have included thinly veiled threats of military action to prevent Athens boosting force levels on several islands near the Turkish coast.
"The Turkish attitude is a destabilizing factor for NATO's unity and cohesion, weakening the southern flank of the Alliance at a moment of crisis," Dendias said, adding ties were "currently witnessing one of their worst periods for years."
Ahead of elections next year, Erdogan has stepped up criticism of what Turkey calls a growing Greek military buildup on islands close to its coastline as well as Western military support to Athens, with which Ankara has long-running territorial disputes.
"They have islands in their possession, they have bases on these islands; if illegitimate threats against us continue based on them, our patience has a limit," he said during a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday.
The U.S. has increased its access to Greek bases since the two allies updated a mutual defense cooperation agreement in October 2021. Turkey fears that a growing US military presence and French arms sales to Athens may tip the military balance in favor of Greece.
Greece has repeatedly called on Turkey to stop questioning its sovereignty over the Dodecanese -- a group of islands off the Turkish coast including Rhodes and Kos -- that were ceded to Greece by Italy following World War II. Turkey argues that Athens must comply with a 1947 peace treaty that allows only a small contingent of Greek soldiers on the Dodecanese.