Take my word for it: Turkey won’t wage war on Greece

I know it is not going to gladden many people’s hearts when I say 80 million Turks will not wrestle 10 million Greek brothers and sisters to the ground; but there is another fact too. I know some Turks have the Turkish irredenta (Western Thrace and Aegean islands) in their hearts and on their minds. The whole world is familiar with “Italia irredenta” (unredeemed Italy) and its motive to emancipate the lands of Trentino, Trieste, Nice, Corsica and Malta from Austrian, Swiss, French and British rule. But none of these towns or countries are going to buy fleets of used warplanes and frigates from the “one and only nuclear power of Europe.” (Shame on you Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis for calling France this! I’ll come back to this later.)

Yes, like many nations that were subject to the two most unjust wars of the 20th century, either as a victor or loser, Turkey, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China and Russia lost parts of their homelands to others. But the peace treaties, signed voluntarily or involuntarily, brought down the shutters on them. No matter how unjust the existing international order in today’s world seems to us, we are still seeking ways to redress it in the United Nations system. We know the five veto-power holders in the Security Council are going to prevent the reform movement in the U.N. system, but we still believe the majority of nations will one day do it!

The long and short of it is that Italy is not going to Malta or Trieste; nor will Turkey make a go of the Aegean islands. Even though you can almost touch Kastellorizo (Megisti-Meis) from Kaş, near Antalya, we take our passports with us when we go swimming in the Büyükçakıl or Küçükçakıl beaches. Who knows, if you swim a little far and the Greek coast guard may fish you out of the sea. Yet, it is a Greek territory. It is not hard to accept; that is what had happened at the Paris conference in 1946. Turkey could have objected to it and it could have gone to international litigation. It had chosen not to.

We can analyze to death the issue of why, oh, why Turkey acted the way it acted. But it would change nothing. The 46 islands in the “Egeo Pelagos” (Aegean archipelago) are now recognized Greek territory, and Turkey, as a peaceful and respectful member of the United Nations has been and will be recognizant of this. Not just the islands, Turkey has also been swindled off its lawful territory in Western Thrace. Okay, I take the word “swindle” back. Perhaps it was the unfortunate result of something psychologists call “learned helplessness”; perhaps the Turkish government took the Kemalist dictum “Peace at home, peace in the world” too much to heart. Turkey was trying to secure its place in the family of nations the Ottomans were booted from for denying nations under its rule the “opportunity of autonomous development” – as former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson claimed, and the world accepted.

Islands, islands, islands

We can discuss this ad nauseam (as many Turks will surely do), but it is not going to change a thing. You must have noticed the steadfastness in my belief when I say those islands now belong to our Greek brothers and sisters. With equal resolve, I will express a fact: Greece cannot arm those islands that have been put under Greek sovereignty in the aforementioned Paris agreement: Lesvos (Lesbos-Midilli), Chios (Sakız), Samos (Sisam), Icaria (Ahikerya), Lemnos (Limni), Samothrace (Semadirek), Karpathos (Kerpe), Kastellorizo (Megisti-Meis), Rhodes (Rodos), Symi (Sömbeki), Tilos (Ileki), Kos (Istanköy), Kalymnos (Kelemez), Leros (Ileryöz), Patmos (Batnoz), Psara (Ipsara), Kasos (Çoban), Nisyros (Incirli), Leipsoi (Ilipsi) and Halki (Herke).

On these 20 islands, neither the Greek government nor its agents (read: the French and the Americans) can store, emplace or deploy any arms other than the small firearms that law enforcement forces carry. They cannot fortify these islands, either. Kapish? Καπίς?

Now, what does the Greek government’s deploying heavy arms on these islands do to the Paris agreement to which I have been bending over backward showing my respect? It voids, abrogates, utterly destroys, headshots. Right? When you abolish an international agreement, what do the other parties do? Keep sheepishly accepting it?

That is a question that Turkey’s allies and friends in NATO, namely Greece, France and the United States should answer now. If they don’t answer the question now it may be too late to keep the Paris agreement as it is.

Note to Mitsotakis

I am dwelling on this issue of the fortification and arming of the Greek Islands because of what Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had implied when he introduced the Greek-French defense pact. He said his government was not only buying six more French Dassault Rafale twin-engine multirole fighter planes – bringing the total number to 24 – and three French-made frigates, but also signing a defense agreement with France that has an article like the NATO agreement: if a third party attacks Greece, France will help defend it.

The NATO agreement has the very same article: if a country attacks Greece, Turkey will be one of the NATO countries to rush to its help! So, Greece now has an alliance within an alliance. In his speech in the Greek parliament, Mitsotakis said this is especially important for his country – in his words – given the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean.

He didn’t name names, but everybody understood that he was implying Turkey. Turkey indeed has a couple of issues with Greek actions in those maritime areas. Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration are not respecting the exclusive economic zones of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Turkey has been issuing naval warnings about their actions. Just recently, a rented research vessel violated the Turkish continental shelf and Turkish naval ships had to push the intruder back to international waters. Turkey doesn’t say that those research vessels cannot safely sail the Turkish continental shelf; rather, it says such activities should be coordinated with Turkey.

Let’s assume that Mitsotakis gets his warplanes and frigates soon; if his rented research ship gets pushed back again when it violates Turkish territorial waters, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or continental shelf, is he then going to attack the Turkish ships and draw in France?

Thank heavens that former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also attended that parliamentary session to add that Mitsotakis was only buying a dream from France.

Source: Daily Sabah

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About the author

Hakki Ocal

Hakki Ocal

Hakkı Öcal is a columnist at both Daily Sabah and Milliyet newspapers, which are based in Istanbul. He is also an advisor to the President of Ibn Haldun University.

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