Turkey accuses Greece of supporting ‘terror,’ without evidence

Ankara often invents stories of “terrorism,” including labeling decade-old tweets “terrorism” to justify its actions.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting of his ruling AK Party via video link in Ankara, Turkey March 4, 2021. (photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting of his ruling AK Party via video link in Ankara, Turkey March 4, 2021.
In its latest threat to a peaceful country, Turkey threatened Greece and accused the country of supporting terrorism. Ankara has long used mythical accusations of “terrorism” to justify invasions, bombing, ethnic-cleansing and imprisoning people, including dissidents and students at home.
Turkey has now turned its threats to Greece after using similar claims to justify attacks on Armenians, Kurds and Libya. It comes in the wake of humiliating EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen by not providing a seat for her at a meeting with Turkey’s president, a symbolic slight that made world headlines.  
Turkey’s presidential head of communications and media Fahrettin Altun, whose Twitter account is listed as a Turkish government account, slammed Greece in the early hours of April 10. Without any evidence he claimed that “Greece harbors terrorist organizations including PKK.”
The PKK is the Kurdistan Workers Party, a group that Ankara labels as being terrorist. “From a supposed refugee camp inside the EU, the terrorists plot attacks (including suicide bombings) against Turkey,” the Turkish government said. “It’s time to end Greece’s impunity.” 
The video accompanying the Turkish threats included images of an F-16 and Turkish Bayraktar drones carrying out airstrikes. It appears Turkey is now threatening airstrikes against Greece, just as it has carried out bombing against alleged “terrorists” in Syria, Iraq and other places.
There have been no PKK terror attacks on Turkey in years and Ankara often invents stories of “terrorism,” including labeling decade-old tweets “terrorism” to justify its actions. Turkey has also accused the United States of backing “terrorist” groups in Syria, without any evidence. It has used this as an excuse to target civilian political leaders.
For instance, in October 2019 Turkey threatened US forces in eastern Syria, demanding that America withdraw, and sent Turkish-backed Syrian extremists to murder Hevrin Khalaf, a young female political activist. It claimed to “neutralize” the young woman – dragging her, unarmed, out of an SUV, bashing her head in and shooting her lifeless body in a video the extremists posts online.
Turkey often uses terrorist-style groups to carry out its attacks against Kurds in Syria, including disappearing dozens of women in Turkish-occupied Afrin and holding them in secret prisons. Ankara has also renditioned women from areas it illegally occupies in northern Syria. 
IT IS UNCLEAR why Turkey has chosen to escalate tensions with Greece now. In the spring and summer of 2020, it carried out a number of provocative actions against Greece, including targeting Greek F-16s, and using a research ship as cover for naval maneuvers and threats against Greek-claimed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.  
Turkey spent the fall of 2019 and part of 2020 launching a series of invasions and attacks, often under the guise of “fighting terror.” For instance, it signed a deal with Libya’s embattled government and sent Syrian refugees to fight in Libya after invading Syria in October 2019. The Syrians were left in Libya in the spring of 2020 as Turkey turned its attention to heating up a crisis in Idlib.
After signing deals with Russia, including importing its S-400 air defense system, Turkey continued threats by increasing attacks on northern Iraq and threatening to invade the Sinjar region of Iraq where Yazidi genocide survivors live. Turkey claims, without evidence, that the genocide survivors are “terrorists.”
Turkey’s threats against Iraq led to complains from Baghdad and a movement of Iraqi paramilitaries to Sinjar to defend against a possible Turkish invasion. In the end, Turkey preferred a raid on Gare Mountain in northern Iraq in February 2021, leading to the death of Turkish hostages who Turkey claims the PKK killed. Locals said Turkish airstrikes killed the hostages.
Turkey uses that attack as an excuse at home to try to ban the HDP, a far-left party that has many Kurdish supporters. Ankara is now trying to ban opposition parties, claiming they are “terrorists.” It also slammed LGBTQ protesters and implicated them as “terrorists,” also in February.  
Ankara appeared to reduce its threats to Greece in the fall of 2020 after US President Donald Trump lost the US election. This is because Turkey had a close relationship with Trump and had worked with pro-Turkish voices in the US State Department to encourage the US to give Ankara a blank check to harass Greece, Egypt, Israel, Libya and the UAE while invading Iraq and Syria and threatening Armenia.
For instance, Turkey’s presidential security force attacked US protesters in Washington in the spring of 2017, and Ankara held a US pastor hostage in 2017 and threatened US forces in Iraq in 2018. It also armed Syrian refugees, trained extremists, enabled ISIS members to transit from Raqqa to Idlib in 2018 and used the threat of pushing refugees into Europe in 2020 to wring concessions from the EU and NATO.  
AFTER THE tensions in recent years, including harassing an Israeli research vessel in December 2019, Turkey appeared to change its tune in December 2020 and early 2021, claiming it wanted reconciliation with Israel, Egypt and the Gulf states it had been harassing. This appeared designed to isolate Greece and Cyprus, which have grown closer to Egypt, Israel and the Gulf.
For instance, Greece and Cyprus joined Egypt, France and the Gulf to condemn Turkey in the spring of 2020. Ankara responded by harassing Greece and France in the summer of 2020. In response to an Eastern Mediterranean gas forum and pipeline plan that Israel, Greece and Cyprus are working on, Turkey sought to use Israel’s press to claim it wanted reconciliation, erasing Cypriot claims to economic zones in the Mediterranean.  
Turkey’s new threats against Greece come in the context of other issues. It has detained admirals at home who oppose a new Turkish canal. In Ukraine, Moscow has claimed that escalation poses a “threat” to Russia. Turkey is supposed to be selling drones to Ukraine but it is also buying S-400s from Russia. Meanwhile, Turkey has claimed the EU was responsible for the von der Leyen seating controversy.
Turkey, whose leadership has bashed US President Joe Biden in the past, is also angling for better relations with the US by trying to insert itself in US-Taliban discussions. It has close ties to the Taliban and other Islamist extremist groups such as Hamas. Ankara likely wants to work with Iran on Afghanistan and may prefer that the Taliban, which have also been backed by Pakistan in the past, will have a greater role.
Turkey, Iran and Russia tend to work together on Syria as well – and all three prefer that the US leave the war-torn country. This puts Ankara at a crossroads of several major US policies in the region. Turkey's rhetoric against Greece comes even though the two countries were supposed to be holding talks to reduce tensions. Talks stalled in March. Turkey then shifted to courting the EU and especially Germany, which has tended to be sympathetic to Ankara’s authoritarian shift.