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Turkey is embarking on a major naval construction programme to restore the regional maritime influence it lost after the Ottoman Empire’s collapse. However, the policy is already generating regional tensions, particularly with its neighbours Greece and Cyprus. Earlier this month, Greece announced a significant weapons purchase as Turkish President Recep Erdogan continued with the offensive.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the new arms included 18 French Rafale fighter jets, four frigates and four navy helicopters. The country also said it plans to increase the size of its armed forces by 15,000 soldiers over the next five years.
The EU, of which Greece is a member, simply called for dialogue with Turkey – an approach which has been heavily criticised by former Greek ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos.
Mr Chrysanthopoulos argued that the bloc’s attitude towards Turkey was not only permitting violations of the territorial integrity of two of its member states but could also spark violence.
Moreover, in a recent report, the head of London-based think-tank Euro Intelligence Wolfgang Munchau argued Mr Erdogan will end up creating a new Turkish empire if Brussels does not take immediate action.
He wrote: “While EU leaders drag their feet on whether to impose sanctions on Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is creating a new Turkish empire using proxies, and tapping into the Turkish and Islamist communities at home and abroad.
“The EU fails to see the bigger picture. This is not about drilling ships entering Greek waters, but about facing up to the biggest threat in our immediate neighbourhood.
“Erdogan inspires Turks and Muslims with a vision of a modern empire stretching from Africa through Europe to Asia. You may not see New Turkey on the map, but it is becoming a reality.
“In pursuit of this geopolitical masterpiece Erdogan uses all means to keep Europe disunited and morally compromised. “
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Turkey already has a presence in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. It has military bases in Libya, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Qatar, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Northern Cyprus and Albania.
It is also militarily engaged in civil wars in Libya and Syria, and now in Azerbaijan against Armenia.
The author continued: “This way Turkey is extending its reach into the Caucasus.
“Once the Turkish military puts its foot down, it creates realities on the ground.
“The buffer zone in northern Syria has turned de facto into a Turkish administration zone, with Turkish lira and products circulating. There is no need to change border lines, as unity with Turkey is an everyday experience. From Africa to Asia, Erdogan is mobilising his supporters.”
Moreover, the author claimed Mr Erdogan knows how to engage the large Turkish communities abroad.
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He explained: “The biggest Turkish diaspora is in Germany. Traditionally voting for the SPD, though increasingly also for the CDU and the Greens, the majority supports Erdogan.
“Over the past months he has played a diplomatic game with Angela Merkel.
“In the end Erdogan got what he wanted: no sanctions from the European Council, but instead a carrot and the threat of a stick that may or may not be decided in December. This way he showed the Turkish diaspora what he is capable of doing.
“Erdogan is a master of manipulation and turning arguments upside down. He sent refugees towards the Greek border to remind the EU what they could expect if they crossed his red lines.”
He concluded: “If Europe cannot get its act together and decide on what those red lines are, there will be no stopping Erdogan.
“The EU plays its part by allowing him to do just this. Compromised by the deal they struck in 2016, which we called then and now the EU’s pact with the devil, Europe is at risk of selling its soul once more.
“Once again, Europe’s foreign policy appears weak, compromised and unprincipled.”
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