The Economist says that Turkey and Greece flex their muscles over rocks in the Aegean.
TURKEY’S chief of the general staff made the first show of force by sailing near the contested islets in a warship. The Greek defence minister responded hours later by dropping a wreath into nearby waters from a helicopter, commemorating three Greek soldiers killed in a skirmish two decades ago. Over the following day, Turkish fighter jets breached Greek airspace a record 138 times, according to the government in Athens. Very quickly, a frozen conflict over a few uninhabited rocks in the Aegean sea, known as the Kardak islands in Turkish and Imia in Greek, started to heat up.
THE ROW BEGAN ON JANUARY 26TH AFTER A GREEK COURT REFUSED …
The row began on January 26th after a Greek court refused to extradite eight Turkish soldiers accused of taking part in last summer’s failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The court ruled that the men, who fled to Greece by helicopter, could not be assured a fair trial and might be tortured back home. Turkey denounced the verdict and threatened to suspend its agreement with Greece on handling migrants. Days later, Mr Akar and the army’s top brass hopped aboard a torpedo boat for their tour.
NERVES HAVE SINCE CALMED
Nerves have since calmed. A repeat of 1996, when the two NATO members came to the brink of war over the islands, is unlikely, says Ilter Turan, a professor at Bilgi University in Istanbul. The countries’ relationship began to improve in 1999, and the rapprochement has paid economic and political dividends. Greece and the European Union count on Turkey to prevent hundreds of thousands of migrants from crossing the Aegean. Turkey needs Greek backing to become an energy hub between Russia, Central Asia and Europe. A peace deal for Cyprus, divided for 42 years between a Greek-Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north, also hangs in the balance.