ISTANBUL – RESPONSE. Ankara is returning to the era of strong rhetoric against Greece. At the same time, increased activity is recorded in the Aegean with dozens of violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighters, while the neighboring country is preparing to send the new drilling rig “Amdulhamit Khan” for drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Also, its National Security Council accuses Greece of “increased provocation and violations of Turkey’s airspace and territorial waters”, while Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu brings back the theories of “gray zones” in the Aegean and challenging the sovereignty of the Greek islands, clarifying that Ankara will continue to violate Greek airspace.
In light of the above, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, after his meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos, announced a telephone call with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in the coming days regarding Greek-Turkish matters and urged the two sides “to explore pragmatic solutions to long-standing disputes’. The main reason Mr. Austin is taking such an initiative is that Washington wants open channels of communication between Ankara and Athens. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s meetings with Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not bring the desired results and the president of Turkey has ruled out, during this period, any possibility of a meeting or conversation with Mr. Mitsotakis.
Mr. Tsavousoglou’s relations with Mr. Nikos Dendias, despite their earlier friendship, as has been said many times, are not considered good and neither has any significant attempt at reconciliation been achieved in the Foreign Ministries of the two countries. Contrary to this image, Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Hulusi Akar have managed to keep in touch even during the difficult periods of Greek-Turkish relations. Even their brief conversation at the recent NATO summit is seen as a sign of the mutual esteem the two men hold. The Minister of Defense of Turkey, and as the former head of the armed forces, has control over the army and if he gives orders there is no way they will be ignored.
Mr. Austin’s possible intervention in Greek-Turkish is considered to be directly related to Ankara’s desire to modernize the F-16s it has in its fleet, as well as the supply of another 40 F-16 Vipers. Mr. Erdogan, in his conversation with Turkish journalists, admitted that the Turkish Air Force also needs spare parts for the specific fighters.
The Turkish government is observing the developments in Washington with the restrictions that the US is preparing to set for the granting of F-16s, such as the ban on overflights over the Greek islands. The president of Turkey may state that no such condition was set in his meeting with Joe Biden, but in Ankara they know that if Congress approves the bill, then the intervention of the US president will be needed to grant the F-16s . Analysts estimate that Mr. Austin’s effort will also be related to these developments and he could ask for calm in the Aegean so that the US government can justify some step regarding the specific fighters. But what the Turkish side is emphasizing is that Washington might ask for restraint from both sides of the Aegean.
On the occasion of the completion of two years since its transformation into an Islamic mosque, the archbishop of America Elpidophoros expresses “his lamentation” for the capture of the great church, “our precious Hagia Sophia which was captured unnecessarily”, as he characteristically mentions. At the same time, he expresses the hope for its return, in a short time, to the previous regime, when “the museum environment of the holy temple could still reveal the glory of Byzantium, which is now hidden for alien purposes”. Finally, the archbishop of America also refers to the war in Ukraine. He speaks of Russia’s unjust and senseless attack and points out that “these two nations are children of the great church and the beauty of Hagia Sophia was what inspired their baptism.”