Erdogan ‘trying to start a war in the Med’

Erdogan ‘trying to start a war in the Med’
The Oruc Reis, escorted by military ships, has become the symbol of Ankara’s quest for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean. (File/AFP)
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Updated 01 November 2020

Erdogan ‘trying to start a war in the Med’

Erdogan ‘trying to start a war in the Med’
  • The Greek Foreign Ministry condemned the Turkish move
  • Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is to inform the country’s allies about the developments

ANKARA: Turkey has extending research activities of its Oruc Reis seismic research vessel in the disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean until Nov. 14.

The move is likely to re-ignite regional tensions after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Greece last week, which was expected to lead to a period of earthquake diplomacy, as happened in 1999.

The new navigational alert (Navtex) issued by Turkey covers sea surveys 16 nautical miles off the Greek island of Rhodes and 50 nautical miles from the island of Kastellorizo.

The Greek Foreign Ministry condemned the Turkish move.

“This action creates further tension in a vulnerable region in which attention is now focused on the provision of assistance and on expressions of support and solidarity,” it said in a press release.

“These actions show once again that Turkey is continuing to act in defiance of the appeals of the international community, including the conclusions of the October meeting of the European Council, which called on Turkey to cease these actions,” it added.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is to inform the country’s allies and partners about the latest developments.

EU leaders agreed on Oct. 2 to give Turkey until early December to reconsider its moves in eastern Mediterranean before considering economic sanctions.

Evangelos D. Kokkinos, an Athens-based geopolitical expert, thinks Turkey issued its Navtex to take advantage Europe’s inability to impose sanctions.

“Most European nations are expected to ‘condemn’ Turkish aggression, but sanctions are out of the question. So, Turkey extending its research activities in the region is another example of ignoring international law and Greek sovereignty,” he told Arab News.

As to what regional tensions it might trigger, Kokkinos thinks that Turkey is already causing serious problems for most of its neighbors, but since both Greece and Turkey are NATO member countries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s strategy is to provoke Athens into starting a military conflict, so that NATO supports Turkey.

“This is why the tension will remain in what seems like the Mediterranean Cold War,” he said.

According to Seth J. Frantzman, executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, “the renewal of a provocative Navtex is the latest crisis pushed by Ankara.”

“It had already declared a Navtex in early October. Greece and European countries have condemned the use of these navigational notifications,” he told Arab News.

Frantzman thinks that Turkey uses the Navtex as a way to challenge Greece at sea, which is an abuse of the concept of the Navtex.

“Turkey has done it numerous times in the past several months, shifting from one crisis to another each time. Now Turkey is moving on from having incited against France and Armenia to attacking Greece,” he said, and added:

“It is made even more shameful by the recent earthquake where Greece and others had offered Turkey aid and Ankara’s response is a naval provocation and threat.”

The maritime dispute escalated in August when Turkey first sent its Oruc Reis vessel into waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus. Ankara then withdrew its drilling vessel last month to allow more room for diplomacy ahead of an Oct. 2 European Union summit, where Cyprus and Greece demanded for tough sanctions against Turkey.

Insisting on its rights in the energy-rich Mediterranean region, Turkey dispatched its vessel again on Oct. 12, inciting reaction from the international communit. It sparked concerns about a potential military conflict between the two neighbors who argue over the extent of their continental shelves and claims about regional hydrocarbon resources.


Istanbul court resumes trial of Turks in Ghosn escape case

Istanbul court resumes trial of Turks in Ghosn escape case
Updated 38 min 42 sec ago

Istanbul court resumes trial of Turks in Ghosn escape case

Istanbul court resumes trial of Turks in Ghosn escape case
  • Trial is trying to piece together the details of how former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn fled Japan in December 2019

ISTANBUL: An Istanbul court on Wednesday resumed the trial of seven Turkish suspects accused of helping smuggle former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn “in a large musical instrument case” from Japan to Lebanon.
The trial is trying to piece together the details of how Ghosn — a French-Lebanese-Brazilian national who was a global business superstar when his career came crashing to an end — fled Japan in December 2019 while out on bail facing financial misconduct charges.
The 66-year-old fugitive was arrested in November 2018 and spent 130 days in prison before completing an audacious escape act that humiliated Japanese justice officials and raised questions about who was involved.
The hearing concerns an employee with Turkey’s MNG Jet private airline who allegedly used four pilots and two flight attendants to move Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon via Istanbul.
The pilots and the MNG Jet employee are accused of “illegally smuggling a migrant” and face up to eight years in jail. A hearing in July released them on bail but barred them from leaving Turkey.
The two flight attendants are accused of failing to report a crime and face one-year sentences.
All seven suspects deny the charges.
The indictment says the escape plan from Japan to Lebanon involved a stopover in Istanbul instead of a direct flight “so as not to arouse suspicions.”
Former US Green Beret member Michael Taylor and his son Peter are accused together with Lebanese national George-Antoine Zayek of recruiting MNG Jet and overseeing the secret operation.
The Taylors are currently fighting extradition from the United States to Japan and the whereabouts of Zayek are unclear.
The indictment says Taylor and Zayek put Ghosn “in a large musical instrument case” and then took him through security at Japan’s Osaka airport.
They allegedly opened “70 holes at the bottom of the case for him to breathe easily.”
The indictment says the plane landed at Istanbul’s old Ataturk airport and parked near another plane bound for Beirut.
MNG Jet employee Okan Kosemen then allegedly jumped off the Osaka plane and boarded the one destined for Beirut together with Ghosn.
The indictment says Kosemen received several payments into his bank account totalling 216,800 euros and 66,990 dollars in the months before Ghosn’s flight.
He is also accused of being paid an unidentified amount after Ghosn’s arrival in Beirut.
Kosemen has denied being paid to help Ghosn escape while the pilots and flight attendants say they were unaware he was on board any of the plane’s flights.
MNG filed a complaint last year alleging its aircraft was used illegally.
It added at the time that one its employees had admitted to falsifying the flight manifest to keep Ghosn off the passenger list.