Erdogan in new threat to Greece in Eastern Mediterranean

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned Greece to enter talks over disputed eastern Mediterranean territorial claims or face the consequences. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 06 September 2020

Erdogan in new threat to Greece in Eastern Mediterranean

  • "Turkish people are ready for every possibility and every consequence", he says
  • The two NATO allies have been locked for weeks in a tense standoff in the eastern Mediterranean

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued new threats to Greece on Saturday as Turkish forces prepared to conduct military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean amid tension over oil and gas rights.

The temperature has soared in the dispute between the two countries since Turkey deployed a research vessel and an escort of warships last month to disputed waters between Cyprus and the Greek islands of Kastellorizo and Crete. Greece and Cyprus claim the area as their exclusive economic zones.

“They will understand that Turkey has the political, economic and military strength to tear up immoral maps and documents,” Erdogan said on Saturday. “They will either understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or on the field through bitter experiences. Turkey and the Turkish people are ready for every possibility and every consequence.”

Turkish military forces will begin five days of military exercises on Sunday in the breakaway republic of northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Ankara.

NATO said last week that Greek and Turkish leaders had agreed to take part in technical discussions to avoid accidents between their navies, but Greece said later it had not agreed to the talks.

The crisis has echoes of disputes between Turkey and Greece in 1974, 1987 and 1996, experts told Arab News. “There is clearly a chance for escalation, but these two countries also have a record of limiting the level of violence between them,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel.

“It seems that the Greek side is still holding to its past positions and that Turkey is using this crisis for a larger agenda than just the legal dispute.”

Paul Antonopoulos, an expert on Turkish-Greek relations, said technical talks between Greece and Turkey were unlikely to produce results because of disagreements over conditions. 

“As Turkey not only refuses to send its ships back to port, but has actually increased war and invasion rhetoric against Greece, discussions will not occur under these conditions,” he said. Antonopoulos thinks Turkey’s recent moves in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as in Syria, Iraq and Libya, have been motivated by a maximalist push for neo-Ottomanism.

“It is unsurprising that Turkey’s military interventions have all been in countries that are not only former Ottoman territories, but are energy-rich,” he said.

“When we look at Turkey’s military escalations wanting to control energy deposits and its flows to support the country’s growing population and economic progress, dialogue to resolve issues with Greece will not be fruitful.”

The Eastern Mediterranean was also a subject of talks between the UAE and Egyptian Foreign Ministers, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Sameh Shoukry.


Tanks moved toward border

Meanwhile, Turkish media reported that tanks were being moved towards the Greek border. The Cumhuriyet newspaper said 40 tanks were being transported from the Syrian border to Edirne in northwest Turkey and carried photographs of armored vehicles loaded on trucks.

A military official speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations said the deployment was a regular movement of forces and unconnected to tension with Greece.

The president’s comments come after NATO said military officers from Greece and Turkey had begun technical discussions to reduce the risk of armed conflict or accidents.

The two NATO allies have been locked for weeks in a tense standoff in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey is prospecting the seabed for energy reserves in an area Greece claims as its own continental shelf.

Ankara says it has every right to prospect there and accuses Athens of trying to grab an unfair share of maritime resources.

Simulated dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighter pilots have multiplied over the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. A Turkish and a Greek frigate collided last month, reportedly causing minor damage to the Turkish frigate but no injuries.

Erdogan said Turkey had repeatedly expressed its willingness to come to a just agreement.

“Our word is sincere,” he said. “The problem is those before us disregard our rights and try to situate themselves above us.”

Turkey faces a wide range of opponents in the eastern Mediterranean. France, Italy and the United Arab Emirates have all sent forces to join war games with either Greece or Cyprus in recent weeks. Egypt has signed an energy exploration deal with Athens for the Mediterranean.

The European Union, which counts Greece and Cyprus as members, has also threatened possible sanctions against Ankara over its “illegal” actions.

This week, the U.S. announced it was easing a 33-year-old arms embargo against ethnically divided Cyprus.

The island split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkey is the only nation to recognize a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and it maintains more than 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus.

The recent crisis is the most serious in Turkish-Greek relations in decades. The neighbors have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, including once over maritime resources in the Aegean.

Earlier, Ankara announced joint military exercises with northern Cypriot forces from Sunday to Sept. 10. The air, land and sea drills are held every year.


(With AP)

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

Updated 31 October 2020

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

  • On Friday the US set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours
  • More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began

WASHINGTON: The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases on Friday and broke its own record for daily new infections for the second day in a row, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, as Covid-19 surges days before the country chooses its next president.
The US, which has seen a resurgence of its outbreak since mid-October, has now notched up 9,034,295 cases, according to a real-time count by the Baltimore-based school.
On Friday the country set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours, breaking the record of 91,000 it had set just one day earlier.
With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to flu season.
"We are not ready for this wave," Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

COVID-19 tally by the John Hopkins University of Medicine as of October 30, 2020.

Authorities in El Paso, Texas, imposed a curfew this week to protect "overwhelmed" health care workers and began setting up field hospitals.
But a judge's attempt to shut down non-essential businesses in the city has been challenged by the mayor and the state's attorney general, the Washington Post reported.
Midwestern state Wisconsin has also set up a field hospital in recent weeks, and hospital workers in Missouri were sounding warning bells as cases rise.
Hospitals in the western state of Utah were preparing to ration care by as early as next week as patients flood their ICUs, according to local media.
The pattern of the pandemic so far shows that hospitalizations usually begin to rise several weeks after infections, and deaths a few weeks after that.
More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began, the Hopkins tally showed as of Friday, with the daily number of deaths creeping steadily upwards in recent weeks also -- though at present it remains below peak levels.
For months public health officials have been warning of a surge in cases as cooler fall weather settles over the US, driving more people indoors.
As the weather changes, New York and other parts of the northeast, which were the epicenter of the US outbreak in the spring but largely controlled the virus over the summer, were reporting a worrying rise.
Some epidemiologists believe that Covid-19 spreads more easily in drier, cool air.
Rural areas, which in the spring appeared to be getting off lightly compared to crowded cities, were also facing spikes with states like North Dakota charting one of the steepest rises in recent weeks.
The state is so overwhelmed that earlier this month it told residents they have to do their own contact tracing, local media reported.
With four days to go until the election, Donald Trump was battling to hold on to the White House against challenger Joe Biden, who has slammed the president's virus response.
"It is as severe an indictment of a president's record as one can possibly imagine, and it is utterly disqualifying," Biden said Friday as the toll passed nine million.
Trump downplays the virus even as the toll has been accelerating once more, holding a slew of rallies with little social distancing or mask use.
He has repeatedly told supporters that the country is "rounding the curve" on Covid infections.
But Americans, wary of crowded polling booths on Election Day as the virus spreads, are voting early in record numbers.