Con­cerns over NATO-Tur­key rift

Athens cau­tious as West takes tough stance over Ankara’s plans to pur­chase Rus­sian de­fense sys­tem

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

In­creas­ingly strained ties be­tween NATO and Tur­key over Ankara’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­ceed with the pur­chase of a Rus­sian S-400 air de­fense mis­sile sys­tem has be­come a fresh source of con­cern in Athens.

Greece is al­ready trou­bled by threats in Europe to cease ne­go­ti­a­tions with Tur­key for mem­ber­ship into the Eu­ro­pean Union, as such a de­vel­op­ment could un­der­mine Athens’s strat­egy to hinge ac­ces­sion talks to de­vel­op­ments in GreekTurk­ish ties.

Given the po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity that has gripped the neigh­bor­ing coun­try since the botched coup 14 months ago and in­cen­di­ary rhetoric em­a­nat­ing from Ankara since, Greece has pur­sued a de­cid­edly more mod­er­ate stance, as ev­i­denced in speeches at the Thes­sa­loniki In­ter­na­tional Fair by Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras and For­eign Min­is­ter Nikos Kotzias.

Tsipras said on Sun­day said that it would be a “mis­take” on the part of the EU to end ac­ces­sion talks with Ankara, even if they have stalled, as Tur­key is a strong re­gional power.

He also also as­cribed the EU’s tough stance to po­lit­i­cal fac­tors within the con­ti­nent such as the forth­com­ing Ger­man elec­tions. He added, how­ever, that Turk­ish provo­ca­tions were not help­ing mat­ters. His com­ments re­ceived pos­i­tive re­views in Turk­ish me­dia like Hur­riyet and Sabah.

NATO’s op­po­si­tion to Ankara’s planned pro­cure­ment of the Rus­sian air de­fense sys­tem was in­di­cated ear­lier this sum­mer by US Congress’s de­ci­sion to re­ject the sale of semi-au­to­matic hand­guns to Turk­ish po­lice. Ber­lin also re­sponded yes­ter­day, putting on hold all arms ex­ports to Tur­key, cit­ing a de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in Ankara’s hu­man rights record.

“We have put on hold all big re­quests (for arms ex­ports) that Tur­key has sent to us, and these are re­ally not a few,” Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel was quoted by Reuters as say­ing yes­ter­day.

But Tur­key ap­peared un­fazed, an­nounc­ing on the same day that it has made a down­pay­ment for the Rus­sian de­fense sys­tem.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan said yes­ter­day that he and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin are de­ter­mined to honor their agree­ment, telling Turk­ish news­pa­per Hur­riyet that Tur­key de­cides on how it will de­fend it­self, re­fer­ring to the pres­sure from western coun­tries.

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