Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos launched scathing criticisms of Turkey’s regional role during a defense conference held at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Ramat Gan.
Kammenos, during his address at the conference on Thursday evening at Bar-Ilan University on “Strategic Challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean,” which was sponsored by B'nai B'rith International, described Ankara’s actions as reflecting “Ottoman revisionist and hegemonic ambitions.”
Turkey, despite being a NATO member along with Greece, and being in a former alliance with Israel, has been exhibiting policies and behavior toward these two nations that are “far from being friendly, far from being in accordance with international law, and far from being stabilizing” the region, he said.
Ankara’s conduct toward Greece is “creating friction in the Aegean in Southeastern Europe,” he said.
He accused Turkey of “deliberately” moving hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to “European soil.”
“It is still maintaining illegally occupying forces in Cyprus, and hinders the progress of negotiations on the island. It tries to block exploration of natural resources in the Mediterranean,” Kammenos said.
“You in Israel know very well how Turkey behaved in December 2012 and January 2013 when the Republic of Cyprus announced the discovery of hydrocarbons [nearby in the Mediterranean Sea]. You also know about its behavior toward your country, its support for anti-Israeli organizations, and its fomenting of anti-Semitic feeling.
Its indiscretion in sensitive areas, and maximal demands in order to normalize relations with Israel,” he added.
Kammenos cited a speech by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to his parliament in late December, in which he said, “Inshallah, the Palestinian flag will wave in Jerusalem. Whatever is wrong for Palestine is wrong for us, too.”
“Turkey’s Ottoman ambitions extend from Bosnia Herzegovina to the Mediterranean south shore,” the Greek defense minister said.
“It hindered, in 2013, allied cooperation in Iraq, and undermined the UN embargo against Iran. It initially allowed the formation of ISIS by permitting the passage of extremists from all over the world [to Syria], and the transfer of weapons.
Then it undermined the forces of the West to fight Daesh [ISIS].
It bombed Kurdish forces fighting ISIS, and traded with ISIS,” Kammenos continued.
Ankara, after many years of cooperation with the Assad regime, including joint military training, and joint vacations by the Erdogan and Assad families, “then became involved against the Assad regime.
It tried to create an international crisis between NATO and Russia by downing the Russian jet [near the Turkish-Syrian border on November 24]. it also hindered progress in [Syria] talks in Geneva,” the minister said.
Greece is very concerned by the prospect of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, he added.
Turning his attention to the Iranian nuclear deal, Kammenos said that “whether one likes it or not, it is, for the moment a reality.
What is important is full implementation.
More important is how it is perceived by Iran’s regional competitors. This perspective is important regarding whether Turkey decides to go nuclear. Turkey has nuclear ambitions, which were made public... before 2002. Turkey wants two nuclear power facilities, though it not certain how fast their construction will progress given friction with Russia.”
ISIS jihadists pose a “prime threat to regional stability,” Kammenos said. He condemned ISIS’s “nihilistic barbarism.”
He also described the Syrian war as a stain on “21st-century humanity,” adding that regional powers – “not Israel or Greece” – are using the conflict to compete for religious, political and economic influence.
In July 2015, Israel and Greece signed a status of forces accord that offers legal protection to members of both militaries while training in the other country. Kammenos visited his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Ya’alon, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, where the accord was signed.
Israel had only ever signed a similar accord with the US.
Ya’alon said then: “We wish the Greek people and Greece itself success in its effort to overcome the economic challenge [it faces].
We pray for that since we believe Greece is a very important country, with a history and a contribution to the history of humanity.”
Ya’alon paid tribute to joint training between the IDF and Greek military within Greece, adding that the countries have shared interests, and both are dealing with the impact of the agreement between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program.