Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called snap elections for June 24, despite the government previously promising they will go ahead as planned in November 2019.
The move is seen by many political commentators as a cynical move by Erdogan to further consolidate power in a time he enjoys popularity largely due to his recent polemic nationalistic rhetoric aimed largely for internal consumption.
“By calling snap elections for June, Erdogan is signaling that he believes his support, at least for the near future, has peaked. He may well be worried that if Turkey’s economic problems continue to worsen it will take a toll on his support,” said Nicholas Danforth, a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Centre in Washington.
Meanwhile European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called “ridiculous and absurd” Turkey;s claim that the two imprisoned Greek soldiers that inadvertedly crossed the Turkish border posed a danger.
Junker made the statement whilst adressing the plenary session of the European Parliament, and repeated a call for the immediate release of the two Greek soldiers, who he noted had committed no crimes and had simply wandered into Turkish territory.
The issue of the two Greek soldiers was raised during the session by Greek MEPs Dimitris Papadimoulis and Notis Marias, following Tuesday’s debate by the EP plenum on the illegal detention of the two Greek servicemen, who have yet to be charged, by Turkey.
“We ask more of you than just positive statements but also pressure, initiatives and measures so that the two Greek soldiers, who defend European policy and the European borders in accordance with international law, can immediately return to their country, the Greek army and their families. This is something that not just Greece but the European Union unanimously demands. And you, Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker, must demonstrate this by increasing the pressure [on Turkey],” Papadimoulis said.
Respect of Borders
On Wednesday the Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos weighed in on the issue of Turkey’s questioning of borders and the sovereignty of Greek islands stressing that Europeans are prepared to protect these borders and made clear that they are clearly defined by International Law. Everyone must respect the borders, and especially the states that want join the European Union, Pavlopoulos underlined.
“We always want to have good relations, we favour its European perspective but this requires respect of the European Union and Greece’s borders and we are not willing to make concessions.” he said.
For its part, main opposition party New Democracy accused Turkey of showing utter disregard for international law and good neighbour relations through its provocative statements about the Imia islets.
“Our answer is that there are no grey zones in the Aegean and that Greece’s sovereignty over its islands and maritime zones is given and indisputable,” said New Democracy’s shadow foreign minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos.
“It is part of a strategy of continuous dispute and constant tension that Turkey has adopted in the Aegean and the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean. This policy has escalated dangerously in the last two years and especially the last months. Ankara is testing the political will, diplomatic reflexes and operational readiness of the country.
“It must formulate an orchestrated international strategy to promote national positions. To begin at once, today, by simultaneously lodging a very strong demarche with the Turkish Ambassador in Athens and the Turkish foreign minister in Ankara. It must give instructions for the briefing of the foreign ministries of all countries and international organisations, wherever there are Greek diplomatic missions. And the prime minister must set aside the domestic propaganda about a so-called ‘clean exit’ and begin a diplomatic marathon, after first being informed that there are, in fact, sea borders,” Koumoutsakos added.