For a long period in the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece has been threatened by Turkish aggression. Turkey continues to try to encroach on Greek land and maritime resources. In a related attempt, Turkey and its close ally Azerbaijan recently simulated a landing on Greek islands as part of the ongoing joint military exercise ‘EFES-2022.’ The two forces are expected to act together in case of a Greek-Turkish crisis, Greek City Times reported.
“Preparing for the EFES 2022 exercise, the Azerbaijan Army held training to infiltrate behind enemy lines by sea, clear the coastline, attack the enemy’s coastal military facility, and neutralize targets.” according to a report by Pronews.
Turkey and Greece share historical rifts
But why is Turkey so adamant about launching an attack on Greece? Historically, the Cyprus issue has been at the heart of many of Turkey’s and Greece’s differences. During the Ottoman Empire, Turks settled in Cyprus. Tensions between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots increased after Cyprus gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960.
Turkey intervened as a guarantor in 1974, following a coup aimed at annexing Cyprus by Greece. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was established in 1983. Greece and Cyprus now argue that the north of Cyprus is still part of the Republic of Cyprus, and they refuse to recognise the TNRC. As a result, the Greece claim that this area is part of their continental shelf, and that they are entitled to any prospective oil and gas as well as any drilling activity.
Turkey has been isolated and seeks help from Azerbaijan
Nonetheless, Turkey expected the following blocs/countries to assist it in addressing the problem, but it was unable to get their support.
- The EU is divided over Turkey and Greece: Both countries almost went to war when a Turkish and a Greek ship collided in August 2020. The EU, on the other hand, looks to be divided on the issue. However, the diplomatic efforts of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel helped prevent greater violence. On the other hand, France pushed Greece to be more proactive and showed support for its maximalist goals.
- Israel has also sided with the Greece lately: Israel and Greece have negotiated a $1.65 billion defence pact. According to Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Greece inked an agreement with Saudi Arabia in February for the transfer, installation, and operation of a Greek Patriot anti-aircraft system. In Paphos, Cyprus, the foreign ministers of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, and Cyprus recently met. In the Mediterranean Sea, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus are regional allies who collaborate on economic problems such as energy and gas. They still resent Turkey, which is striving to expand its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.
- Saudi Arabia has annoyed Turkey with its recent moves: After the Khashoggi case, Ankara has been an annoyance to Riyadh. President Erdogan did everything he could, to block the monarchy’s escape path, including involving the US in the matter to ensure that the kingdom doesn’t flee with impunity. MBS has lambasted his relations with Turkey ever since the worldwide disgrace, and Erdogan has positioned himself as a determined person who is unconcerned about what Riyadh does.
Now, in order to isolate Greece, Turkey is seeking assistance from Azerbaijan, a strong ally. Nonetheless, during Azerbaijan’s struggle with Armenia, Turkey aided the country. As payback, Turkey expects Azerbaijan to assist it in countering Greece at a time when it is nearly alone on the international stage. The most recent simulations as part of their joint military drill lead us to assume that a military crisis involving Greece, Turkey and Azerbaijan could be on the horizon.