Long-running tensions between Turkey and Greece flare up

The tensions in the east Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece are part of an interlinked and long-lasting set of crises determined by the conflicting views. (AFP)
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The tensions in the east Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece are part of an interlinked and long-lasting set of crises determined by the conflicting views. (AFP)
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) shake hands during the annual Summit of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Thessaloniki on June 10, 2022. (AFP)
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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) shake hands during the annual Summit of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Thessaloniki on June 10, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 12 June 2022

Long-running tensions between Turkey and Greece flare up

The tensions in the east Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece are part of an interlinked and long-lasting set of crises deter
  • Experts say strained ties between them are being increasingly used for domestic purposes
  • Erdogan recently said that Mitsotakis ‘no longer exists’ for him as he accused him of trying to prevent the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey

ANKARA: Following Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ address to the US Congress last month, long-running tensions between Turkey and Greece are flaring up again.

As both countries simultaneously face an economic downturn with severe inflation, and as they near their election terms in 2023, experts say that tension between them is being increasingly used for domestic purposes.

Writing several tweets in the Greek language, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has directly threatened the Greeks to be prudent with their standpoint in the Aegean Sea, otherwise “they will regret” it.

Erdogan recently said that Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him as he accused him of trying to prevent the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. He also warned: “Don’t try to dance with Turkey. You’ll get tired and stuck on the road.”

In return, the Greek government called for national unity toward an “unpredictable” neighbor, while former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras replied to Erdogan in Turkish, saying: “Greece will protect its sovereignty against all threats. So let’s end the provocation and get back to dialogue on the basis of international law. The answer to the economic crisis we are all facing is not extreme nationalism.”

Mitsotakis also warned against the “aggressiveness” of Turkey and said he will not “be involved in a game of personal insults.”

For Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at Washington Institute, this recent tension is unprecedented.

“Erdogan issues a warning to Greece over Aegean Sea disputes, threatening a repeat of the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 in which Greece was brutally defeated by Turkey. This is the most serious escalation of tensions between Ankara and Athens in recent memory,” he said.

After issuing several statements over recent weeks urging for common sense to prevail in the Turkey-Greece conflict and throwing his weight behind Athens, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the Greek port city of Thessaloniki on Friday as part of the South East European Cooperation Process.

“The latest tensions in the East Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece are part of an interlinked and long-lasting set of crises determined by the conflicting views on what each country defines as national interests and national sovereignty,” Madalina Sisu-Vicari, an energy and geopolitics expert at Eurasian Energy Chamber, told Arab News.

Ankara emphasizes the need for the demilitarization of Greek islands neighboring Turkey in the Aegean Sea on the basis of international agreements as it sees the presence of Greek military forces there as a threat to its own domestic security.

Ankara is also against the involvement of NATO, the EU or third parties in the pending maritime issues in the Aegean Sea, such as overlapping claims on the continental shelves, maritime boundaries, illegal migration and Cyprus, as it seeks their resolution bilaterally.

Selim Koru, an analyst at Ankara-based think-tank TEPAV, says a technical solution through multilateral organizations like the EU and NATO could slow down the crisis but will not stop it.

“This crisis is the manifestation of a deep political process that has been unfolding for decades. It has a rationale of its own and won’t stop until it has run its course,” he told Arab News.

For Ankara, islands in the Aegean Sea were given to Greece under the Lausanne Treaty in 1923 and the Paris Treaty in 1947, which guarantee the islands’ unarmed status.

But Greece considers it its sovereign right to maintain its army there to defend against any hostile actions of Turkey’s army along the same shores.

Both countries also notified the UN about their positions on the islands, with some historians like Ryan Gingeras saying that “a war in the Aegean is not only possible but perhaps, at some point, probable.”

According to Sisu-Vicari, these maritime crises have been translating into many geopolitical confrontations and power struggles between Ankara and Athens, and they have been regularly revived or amplified by important developments, both domestic and international.

“Domestic factors such as economic difficulties and next year’s elections, in conjunction with Turkey’s reckoning about her geopolitical role and leverage in the context of the Ukraine war, were likely among the principal triggers of Ankara’s latest rhetoric,” she said.

However, other than the domestic factors, Sisu-Vicari thinks that the scaling down of the US geopolitical clout in the East Mediterranean — now even more amplified by the war in Ukraine — has impacted the Turkish-Greek crisis.

“On one hand, the EU’s membership perspective is frozen for Turkey, and the US has downsized its geopolitical presence in the East Mediterranean, and on the other, the interest of other European actors is mainly absorbed by the war in Ukraine,” she said.

In October 2020, Greece and Turkey decided to establish a military deconfliction mechanism following a series of talks in Brussels facilitated by NATO. The mechanism aimed at reducing the risk of “accidents” and “incidents” in the East Mediterranean by creating a hotline between the two counties.

But the exploratory talks that resumed last year made little progress. Turkey recently canceled a High-Level Strategic Council meeting with Greece.

Although it could help to ease some of the tensions, Sisu-Vicari thinks that it is difficult to see these long-lasting crises solved without a “grand bargain” in the East Mediterranean, which should include a visionary plan for the region and political concessions — perhaps painful — agreed upon by the principally concerned actors, Turkey and Greece.

“In the absence of such bargain, domestic or geopolitical factors would continue to revive and amplify the tensions,” she added.

The US State Department urged both allies to “avoid rhetoric that could further raise tensions.”

“Greece and Turkey are both strong partners and key NATO allies to the US and sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and protected,” it said in a statement.

Turkey’s largest military exercise, EFES-2022, which began on May 20, was concluded on June 10 with the participation of over 10,000 military personnel from 37 nations, including the US, the UK, France, Qatar and Pakistan — a move considered timely and significant amid rising regional tensions.


Four deaths, 70 injuries after toxic gas leak from tanker in Jordan's Aqaba port

Four deaths, 70 injuries after toxic gas leak from tanker in Jordan's Aqaba port
Updated 9 sec ago

Four deaths, 70 injuries after toxic gas leak from tanker in Jordan's Aqaba port

Four deaths, 70 injuries after toxic gas leak from tanker in Jordan's Aqaba port

AMMAN: Four deaths, 70 injuries after toxic gas leak from tanker in Jordan's Aqaba port, according to state TV.

More to follow...


Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment
Updated 9 min 5 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment
  • The meeting followed the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Egypt,

CAIRO: A delegation from the Saudi National Real Estate Committee has held talks with the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones in Egypt on how to boost investment cooperation between the two countries.

The talks were led by Mohamed Abdullah Abdel Aziz Al-Murshed, who chairs the Saudi committee, and Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, CEO of the Egyptian investment authority. Also present were Tariq Shukri, who chairs Egypt’s real estate development chamber, and representatives of 27 leading Saudi companies in the fields of real estate development, industry, agriculture and building materials.

The meeting followed the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Egypt, on the sidelines of which 14 investment agreements were signed between the two nations, according to a press release.

Abdel-Wahab stressed the “importance of strengthening investment relations between the two countries, especially in light of what the current period is witnessing in providing unprecedented support to the private sector, and encouraging Arab and foreign companies to pump more investment into the Egyptian market, including the construction sector.”

He said the sector was “one of the main pillars of the national projects being implemented, such as the Suez Canal axis, and fourth generation cities such as the Administrative Capital, New Alamein and others, which aim to create smart cities based on electronic services and renewable energy, in addition to implementing a huge network of roads and bridges to connect national projects and new cities.”

The meeting looked at ways to enhance cooperation by exploiting the competitive advantages of Egypt as a destination for investment in the region, and reviewing the investment opportunities available.

It also highlighted the importance of strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.

Abdel-Wahab said the investment authority was keen to attract more Saudi investment in Egypt by intensifying communication with major companies and introducing the Saudi business community to the latest developments there.


Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle
Updated 27 min 4 sec ago

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle
  • Ukrainian local community in Gaza highlight similar struggles civilians face in the Russian occupation and Israeli occupation

LONDON: There are around 830 Ukrainian-born people living in Gaza, the largest population of foreigners living in the blockaded coastal zone, according to community leaders.

While for decades, their families in Ukraine have feared for safety in the Gaza Strip, these expats are now also fear for their families’ safety in Ukraine.

Natalya Hassoumi, a endocrinologist in Beit Lahia, was frequently unable to contact her family in Ukraine for days at a time while airstrikes targeted the Palestinian territory.

Now, she has not heard from her parents and siblings in Russian-occupied Kherson for three weeks.

“I never thought that war could happen in Ukraine, no food, no electricity … Gaza and Ukraine have the same problems now,” she told the Guardian.

The Soviet Union was a major supporter of the Palestinian cause, offering scholarships and business visas to people from West Bank and Gaza for decades, according to Hassoumi.

Many of those ties remained after Ukraine declared independence in 1991.

The vast majority of Ukrainians in Gaza are women who met their Palestinian husbands while studying at Ukrainian universities.

Approximately 120 Gaza families with ties to Ukraine were evacuated during the 11-day war last May between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant groups, which killed 256 people in Gaza and 14 people in Israel.

However, less than a year later, Viktoria Saidam and her husband Ibrahim have decided to seek refuge with Ibrahim's parents in the southern Gaza Strip, where the population suffers from electricity shortages, polluted water and political turmoil, according to the Guardian report.

Natalya Mabhouh has lived in Gaza since 1997. Her mother, sister are still in her home town of Kharkiv.

“When I came to Gaza the economic situation was good, there was peace, but we got used to wars and escalation since then. This has been a huge shock. Russians and Ukrainians are like one people … I still don’t understand how this could happen,” the hairdresser said to the Guardian.

In general, the Palestinian society have supported Russia over Ukraine, viewing it as a proxy superpower struggle with the US, Israel’s most important ally.However, neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority has taken a public position on the Russian invasion.

The Russian invasion has also heightened tensions between Gaza's Ukrainian and Russian-speaking communities.

Many local Ukrainians were upset after a pro-Moscow demonstration was held in March.

In March, many local Ukrainians were upset after a group of Russians held a pro-Moscow demonstration, causing many long lived friendships to end.“It is really difficult,” said Hassoumi. “My mother is Ukrainian and my father is Russian and suddenly people are not talking to me. I feel like many people don’t care about the details, but it’s an occupation, like the Israelis.”

The Ukrainian community in Gaza remains worried about the prospects of both their homeland and their adopted home.Ashraf Al-Nimr, a leader of the local Ukrainian community, told the Guardian: “We built a life here, so despite everything we will stay”.

He says that 15 of his wife’s family members in Mariupol have gone missing since Russia’s siege began. “We can help by giving people in Ukraine instructions on how to deal with war, how to hide, and raising money. Any way we can help, we will,” he said.


Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn
Updated 27 June 2022

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn
  • Country’s anti-torture unit lacks govt budget, laws and courts ‘ineffective’

LONDON: Lebanese authorities must protect people from torture and ill-treatment in detention, a group of organizations including Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The appeal came on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at HRW, said: “Despite an improvement to Lebanon’s anti-torture framework on paper, torture remains prevalent, and accountability for torture and ill-treatment is elusive.

“Lebanon needs to show that it is serious about combating torture, and it should start by moving forward the many torture complaints that have been languishing before the judiciary without effective investigations.”

In 2019, 44-year-old Hassan Al-Dika died in custody reportedly as a result of torture. An HRW investigation found that judicial authorities failed to investigate Al-Dika’s allegations of torture before his death.

They had also tasked the same security agency that Al-Dika accused of torture with investigating his claims.

And in the case of actor Ziad Itani, who was accused and later exonerated of spying for Israel, Lebanese justice authorities have yet to take action regarding his claims of torture at the hands of State Security officials.

The Lebanese Parliament passed a law criminalizing torture in 2017. Two years later the government appointed five members to the National Preventative Mechanism against Torture.

But the unit has yet to be allocated a budget to allow the fulfillment of its mandate.

“The Lebanese authorities should promptly and impartially investigate all complaints of torture, allocate a sufficient budget to allow the torture prevention unit to get to work, and bring the anti-torture law in line with international standards,” Majzoub said.

Torture remains prevalent in Lebanon, despite complaints regularly being filed under the 2017 law.

The HRW warned that the 2017 law fails to abide by Lebanon’s obligations under the UN Convention against Torture, because it fails to criminalize cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.


Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday
Updated 27 June 2022

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

CAIRO: Bahraini Royal Court says Egyptian President to visit kingdom on Tuesday, will hold talks with King, the state-run news agency said.  

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will receive President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his accompanying delegation upon his arrival in Bahrain tomorrow, Bahrain news agency said. 

During  the visit, the leaders will hold talks related to bilateral relations, in addition to the latest developments on the regional, Arab and international arenas.