Athens’ ‘hostile act’ against Ankara is ‘shocking’: former US diplomat

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It is shocking that Greece engaged in a “hostile act” against its NATO ally Türkiye during a NATO mission over the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean, said on Saturday. an analyst and former American diplomat.

On August 23, a Russian-made S-300 air defense system stationed on the Greek island of Crete engaged in “harassment” (radar lock) on Turkish aircraft. Former US diplomat Matthew Bryza told Anadolu Agency (AA): “As Ankara has stated, this is clearly considered a hostile act under normal military procedures. NATO take such action against another NATO ally.”

Bryza, now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, called the incident a “new sign of escalation” from the Greek side, dismissing Ankara’s efforts to reduce tensions bilateral which increased in August 2020.

“I think from Ankara’s point of view, Ankara tried to defuse what Athens decided to escalate and the locking of a Turkish F-16 by S-300 radars is a further sign of escalation, just like the pushbacks of migrants into the Aegean from Greece on the Aegean side and back on the Turkish side,” he said.

Regarding Greek media reports that claim the incident is the result of Türkiye’s “decision to provoke” Athens, he said: “This is a completely false account. And I think the Greek political leaders are using the fear of the Türkiye as a way, of course, to strengthen themselves domestically in Greek domestic politics.”

Greek actions in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean appear provocative

Greece is engaging in some actions in the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean that might seem provocative to the Turkish side, said Tudor Onea, an academic at Bilkent University’s international relations department in Ankara.

“Both sides tried to get on each other’s nerves. Each of them is trying to push the other back,” Onea told AA.

“Of course there is a difference. Turkey is a bigger and much stronger player in terms of population, economy and military. It is definitely the heavyweight in the relationship,” Onea added.

Stressing that Turkey and Greece have a long history, he described the ties between the countries as a “friendly rivalry”.

The real root of the rivalry is the discovery of natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean, he said. This has revived, in fact, the whole question of having a clear demarcation line between the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Greece and Turkey, he added.

The only way for Greece to resist is to provide outside help, he said, adding that Greece has adopted this as a “modus operandi” for years.

While Türkiye has often criticized NATO, including the United States, for not supporting him enough in his territorial dispute with Greece, he said that the main areas of concern for the United States at the moment present are East Asia and Russia.

“As far as the United States is concerned, they don’t want to blow it up into something bigger. They would appeal to pressure both sides to come to some sort of diplomatic accommodation. And certainly not to escalate ( tension) to the point where there is a risk and a serious response,” he said, adding that the United States had decent relations with both sides to ensure peace in the region.

Ömer Özkılçık, a Turkish foreign policy and security analyst, said two factors come into play. “One is Greece’s lobbying power and the other is Turkey’s declining lobbying power in America. “, he told AA.

He also pointed out that US Senator Bob Menendez was “the key element” of the Greek lobby. Greece blocked Turkish warplanes right after Menendez’s visit to Greece. “In his speech, Bob Menendez defines Turkey as the greatest threat in the eastern Mediterranean and completely accepts the Greek theses and says them as if they were real,” the analyst said.

Özkılçık added that the Armenian lobby, the Greek lobby as well as the influence of terrorist organizations such as the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ) and the PKK have reduced Turkey’s lobbying power in the United States, although Ankara has right on many points.

“Greece manages to close this gap in its favor,” he said.

According to Turkish National Defense Ministry sources, Greece has violated Turkish airspace and territorial waters more than 1,100 times in the first eight months of this year alone.

Türkiye, a NATO member for more than 70 years, has complained about Greece’s repeated provocative actions and rhetoric in the region in recent months, including the arming of islands near Turkey’s coast that are demilitarized under the treaty, claiming that such actions frustrate his good faith efforts for peace.

US waives sanctions on India despite S-400 purchase

Özkılçık said that the United States granted an exemption to India for its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense systems, but not to Turkey.

“There are geopolitical reasons. Since the United States wanted to focus on China, they granted an exemption to India in their own laws. Here, India is an element to balance China. The United States United did not want to impose sanctions against India and harm relations,” Özkılçık said.

“Rather than wanting to balance Russia, the United States preferred to balance China. There is a geopolitical interest there,” he added.

Washington has long tried to dissuade countries from buying military hardware from Russia, threatening them with punitive action under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

However, when Moscow and New Delhi signed a $5.5 billion deal for the S-400 system in 2018, the US Congress this year recommended a waiver of India’s sanction for its purchase.

The proposal argues that a strong defense partnership between the United States and India is essential in light of growing threats in the region, calling the sanctions counterproductive – an argument that was not made when Sanctions have been proposed against Türkiye, a staunch NATO ally of the United States since 1952.

Özkılçık said the Indian lobby in the United States was another factor that worked effectively, as did the Israeli and Greek lobbies.

He added that the US House of Representatives and Senate are two institutions that are mainly under the influence of lobbies.

“These institutions are determined to protect the interests of other states, not the United States,” he said.

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