Turkey pushes new tensions with Greece despite earthquake

Turkish officials said on Sunday that Greece was complaining “in vain” and that Turkish “research activities” would move forward.

 Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, October 3, 2018 (photo credit: YORUK ISIK/ REUTERS)
Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, October 3, 2018
(photo credit: YORUK ISIK/ REUTERS)
Weeks after walking back a provocative naval maneuver near a Greek island in the face of criticism from European countries, Turkey has said it will resume provocative naval exercises.
Turkey uses a research ship, called Oruc Reis, to claim it is conducting “research,” but uses large naval forces to harass Greek islands under the guise of research missions, something it has now done a dozen times since the beginning of the year.
Turkish officials said on Sunday that Greece was complaining “in vain” and that Turkish “research activities” would move forward. However, the Foreign Ministry’s statement betrayed the reality behind the “research.” Most countries in the world don’t conduct “research” just off the coast of their neighbor using military vessels.
Turkey uses a navigational notice, known as a Navtex, to lay claim to waters that are actually off the Greek island of Kastellorizo. Ankara claims that Greece has a “maximalist” claim and that Turkey must use these naval notices to patrol around the Greek island. “Our country will continue its activities in the region within its rights based on international law,” Turkey said. In fact, international law favors Greece – and no other country uses Navtex notices as a way to harass their neighbors.
The new naval provocation takes place despite a recent earthquake that damaged Turkey’s city of Izmir. Greece used the earthquake, which also affected its island of Samos, to offer aid and reconciliation with Turkey. The response by Ankara was more threats. Even as rescue teams toil over the rubble of buildings in Izmir to find signs of life – and a three-year-old girl was miraculously pulled from the rubble on Monday after surviving 65 hours – Turkey’s far-right regime prefers war games and conflict to caring for the damaged city.
Turkey last announced a Navtex on October 12. There was major condemnation from Greece and other European countries. Since then, Ankara has pivoted to threaten France, calling France’s president “deranged” and encouraging attacks on the country after accusing the country of insulting Islam by publishing cartoons. This month, terrorists in France have beheaded a teacher and someone in a church.

Turkey uses a crisis-driven foreign policy to achieve its goals, often threatening Armenia, Greece, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Egypt, the UAE and other countries as part of its nationalist and increasingly Islamist turn toward using endless war as a strategy.
For instance, the headlines at Anadolu, a Turkish pro-government media giant, said on Monday that Turkey had killed “PKK militants” and celebrated the war against Armenia being waged by Azerbaijan. Ankara has also heralded as “martyrs” soldiers it sent to Syria, hinting that it will never leave Turkish-occupied Afrin and other areas of northern Syria. Turkey has also pushed Northern Cyprus to declare itself a state, provoking Cyprus.
Turkey announced other Navtex provocations on March 5, July 23, August 6, August 10 and August 24, and warned Greece on September 15 against “militarization.” Athens had been on alert in early August due to Turkish naval provocations after Ankara announced naval activity near the Greek islands.
Turkey also harassed a Greek F-16 in August using its Russian-supplied S-400 radar. It suspended its research activities on July 28, but then continued them soon after. It did the same on September 16, but then sent the Oruc Reis back to sea. France warned Turkey about its naval activity on October 12, likely causing Ankara to create a crisis with Paris that led to two terror attacks this month.
In addition, Turkey’s foreign ministry hinted on October 18 that his country was displeased it had ever “given” Kastellorizo to Greece, a statement that seemed to show Turkey wants to re-draw borders from 100 years ago. Turkey and Greece held rival military drills near Crete on August 25, and Greece issued a rival Navtex on October 25, saying on September 1 that it will not be blackmailed.  
This dance of naval provocations shows that Turkey will use the Navtex notice whenever it wants a new crisis with Greece and then climb down when it gets bored. It has also sent Syrian mercenaries to Libya and Azerbaijan, clashed with the Syrian regime, bombed Kurds in Iraq, incited against Armenia and France and threatened its NATO allies. It has also threatened to “liberate” Jerusalem from Israel’s control. This year has seen nearly endless crises with Turkey on all its fronts – from Armenia to Syria to the sea.