With a strong posture, a firm voice, exhuming confidence and very particular rhetoric, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias taught Turkish diplomacy a very harsh lesson that it is clearly not accustomed to.
We do not have to look far back to remember last week’s #sofagate incident between EU leaders and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was left almost speechless when she was not offered a chair to sit alongside Erdoğan and European Council President Charles Michel.
In fact, Michel was a stunned mullet unable to utter a word in defence of his European counterpart.
Of course, Michel’s sheepish and cowardly reaction to the insult against von der Leyen was preceded by his clasped hands and bow in front Erdoğan, who appears to be smirking behind the mask and petted the unelected European leader condescendingly.
Although the European Union continues to be meek, weak and indecisive in the face of Turkey’s endless violations of Greek and Cypriot territory, as well as direct threats of war, Dendias, full of confidence, went into the lions den yesterday.
First Dendias met with Erdoğan for about an hour, then had a one on one meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, followed by a delegations meeting, and finally joint statements.
With Çavuşoğlu regurgitating the usual Turkish talking points devoid of international law and reality, Dendias, with palm outstretched when Turkish officials attempted to prevent him from responding, highlighted the major contradictions said by his counterpart.
First Dendias highlighted that Turkey continues to violate international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Turkey is one of only 15 countries in the whole world, in which many of the non-signatories are landlocked countries, to not sign and ratify UNCLOS as it acknowledges Greek sovereign rights in the Aegean and East Mediterranean.
“Turkey has also violated our sovereign rights by flying over Greece 400 times,” Dendias said, adding “over Greek soil, Mevlüt, over Greek soil.”
“No law permits flying over foreign territory. I’m not referring to the sea,” he added.
Dendias then addressed Turkey’s endless false claim that there is a Turkish minority in Greece.
“About the minority, we’re only saying what the Treaty of Lausanne says, a treaty that Turkey has signed. That’s what the treaty says. Turkey might like it, it might not like it, but the Treaty of Lausanne is in effect, and it will keep being in effect,” he said.
Turkey’s own Foreign Ministry website affirms that there is only a Muslim minority in Greece.
The Treaty of Lausanne Part VI Article 2, as presented on the Turkish Foreign Ministry website, states:
“Moslems established in the region to the east of the frontier line laid down in 1918 by the Treaty of Bucharest shall be considered as Moslem inhabitants of Western Thrace.”
Dendias returned to the discussion of UNCLOS, and stressed that it is “a part of the EU aquis” and that if Turkey truly wants to join the EU as it has claimed in recent days, then it must acknowledge UNCLOS.
“The EU has signed it. It’s not only signed by member states, but also by the Union itself. If Turkey wants to become a member of the EU, then you must abide by the UNCLOS,” he said.
The Greek foreign minister then took aim at migration, lambasting Turkey’s instigated migrant crisis in February and March last year.
“Concerning migration, I honestly believe that after last’s years incidents, Turkey should not try to teach Greece on anything about migration,” he said.
Last year, Turkey manufactured a migrant crisis by transporting tens of thousands of illegal immigrants to the Greek border with the false information that they could now enter the European Union.
The campaign of pressure utterly failed, forcing Turkey to move the illegal immigrants away from the border region as COVID-19 began to spread.
“We are ready, as you also said, to move forward to a new chapter, but that includes the perception of what’s wrong and right. I believe the storming of our border was not the right thing to do,” Dendias said.
“I would like to state that Greece is ready to move to a positive agenda regarding our relations with Turkey,” he continued, adding “That does not mean Greece will change its long-held policies, it does not mean abandoning the EU acquis.
“Please allow me to tell you that the EU Council is not a third party. Greece is an EU member, we are a part of the Council, and have suggested that you join too! It’s not a third party,” he stressed.
“The EU Council is our family, countries which we live together with. These are countries that share the same values with us, countries that have a common vision about the future. A place that protects human rights,” the foreign minister continued.
“I always call it the best example of countries co-existing in the history of mankind,” Dendias stressed.
“Greece is proud to be a part of the EU, proud for the EU’s established rights, we will keep on living according to them,” he said.
The Greek foreign minister then responded to Çavuşoğlu’s demands that the Greek islands be demilitarised.
“We have the army stationed on our islands because there is a threat,” he highlighted. “We don’t want to spend money on the military without a reason.”
“Can anybody say that there is no threat of landing units near our islands?” Dendias questioned.
“If there is no such thing, please notify us,” he added.
“I hope our disagreement did not make you postpone our scheduled dinner because I am really hungry,” Dendias concluded with a smirk.
In fact, Çavuşoğlu was so taken aback by Dendias’ response that he could only mutter out that the Greek foreign minister withdrew from a “positive” dialogue.
“We do not agree on these issues, and despite the consensus we reached on these issues during our meeting, if you come out here and blame Turkey, I will respond,” he added.
Dendias immediately quipped back by saying: “I would be surprised if you were expecting me to be here in Ankara and not express these concerns, as if nothing had happened in the Aegean or eastern Mediterranean.”
In short, Dendias responded to Turkey’s false allegations with facts and international law, highlighted the European values that Turkey defies despite recently claiming it wants to become an EU member, and stressed that Greece will not be intimidated by Turkey.
The Greek foreign minister also set the standards that the EU should be following in its dealings with Turkey, rather than the submissive position it resigns itself too.
Yet again, this is all the less surprising when the EU is headed by the likes of Michel who boys and falters in front of Erdoğan.