Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias underscored the persistent “threat of war” with Turkey in a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the signing of a deal to upgrade defense cooperation between Athens and Washington.
“Greece is facing a casus belli, a threat with war if it exercises its sovereign rights and, I have to say, Greece is facing daily provocation,” Dendias said Thursday at the State Department. “Greece is committed to resolve disputes with diplomacy and always in accordance with international law.”
Turkey and Greece have competing economic claims in the eastern Mediterranean, the danger of which was dramatized in a “mini-collision” between two frigates attempting to enforce the claims of the capitals. NATO officials established a “deconfliction” mechanism to avoid an outright conflict between the two countries, which went on to maintain “a quiet summer,” to the gratification of U.S. officials.
“The two governments at a political level had decided that they did not want a repeat of what we all lived through in summer of 2020 [when they were] running the risk of a military clash between NATO allies that would do none of us any good,” a senior State Department official told reporters this week. “So I think the situation is significantly improved from what it was in the summer of 2020. The underlying issues remain.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed, earlier this month, naval operations of the sort that sent tensions soaring last summer and announced maritime military exercises after accusing Greece of violating an agreement for both sides to avoid such displays. “Our navy, armed forces, and air forces have orders in this respect,” Turkish Defense Ministry spokeswoman Pinar Kara told reporters.
Dendias hailed the revisions to the U.S.-Greece security deal as a bulwark against Turkey, which also is embroiled in significant security-related controversies with the United States. “Dear Tony, your commitment to Greece is greatly appreciated ... following the migrant crisis and the tensions in eastern Mediterranean last year, they acquired increased importance,” he said. “You are underlining that the United States as well as Greece are firmly determined to mutually safeguard and protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its country against actions threatening to peace, including armed attack or threat thereof.”
Erdogan’s purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, in conjunction with the tensions between Ankara and Athens, has stoked talk in Washington of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, which houses dozens of U.S. nuclear weapons. Blinken made no reference to what would be a landmark shift within the U.S. alliance network but touted the improvement in Greco-American military ties.
“I’m particularly delighted that, today, the foreign minister and I will sign an amendment to the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement between our countries — two proud, strong NATO Allies, both deeply committed to our alliance,” Blinken said. “This update will allow the agreement to remain in force indefinitely, and it enables U.S. forces in Greece to train and operate from additional locations.”
Still, Blinken’s team also underscored the importance of maintaining the best possible relationship with Erdogan’s government.
“I don't think there’s another government in NATO that is more strongly aligned with the United States than Greece on the principle that we have to keep Turkey anchored in the West,” a senior State Department official said.
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke