Turkish President Erdogan lashes out against all

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unleashed a disturbing tirade against several countries in recent days. In the build-up of forthcoming municipal elections in Turkey, expected to be held next Saturday, 31st March, President Erdogan has lashed out at opponents using stern language. The first victim in the Turkish President’s nationalist outburst was New Zealand.

New Zealand Incident

Above all, the Turkish President framed the recent attacks in the two mosques of Christchurch, New Zealand as part of a broader agenda, a conspiracy against Muslims and Turkey. In line with his recent statements on a party rally at Gaziantep, President Erdogan argued:

‘They are testing us from 16.500 kilometres away, from New Zealand, with the messages they are giving from there…This is not an individual act, this is organised…All Muslims, our country, our nation and myself are targeted.’

President Erdogan’s rhetoric would not have caused any concern as it is usual practice by Turkish officials in recent months to break into nationalist rants. Nonetheless, a diplomatic incident occurred when the Turkish President decided to project footage of the Christchurch attacks during his rally speeches. New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters reacted to this footage sustaining:

‘Anything of that nature that misrepresents this country – given that [the suspect] was a non-New Zealand citizen – imperils the future and safety of the New Zealand people and our people abroad and it is totally unfair. We had a long dialogue on the need for any other country, or Turkey for that matter, to ensure that our country, New Zealand, was not misrepresented.’

Criticism towards Europe

Besides New Zealand, the Turkish President also scolded Europe. Last Monday President Erdogan appeared before the celebrations of the Battle of Gallipoli that took place in March 1915 at the height of World War I. At the Battle of Gallipoli, the Ottoman Republic won the naval incursion by the Entente powers, namely Britain and France. The Entente powers invaded Constantinople in an attempt to take control of the Bosphorus Straits and effectively isolate the supply maritime route to Russia. However, fierce resistance met by Arab militias and Ottoman army resulted in a glorious victory for the Ottomans. On this incident President Erdogan argued:

‘We have been here for 1,000 years and will be here until the apocalypse, God willing…You will not turn Istanbul into Constantinople…Your grandparents came, and some of them returned in caskets. If you come as well…Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers.’

Greece and Cyprus

Some days earlier President Erdogan also attacked  Greece and Cyprus. In a TV interview, the Turkish President underscored:

‘In Cyprus they are testing our patience because they are violating our [gas exploration and drilling] rights.’

Then, the Turkish President touched upon Greece’s aircrafts flying over the national airspace:

‘In the Aegean they are testing our patience by trying to limit us and keep us from setting foot there…When at times our aircraft take off over the Aegean you see aircraft from Greece taking off too. However, when Greek aeroplanes take off and ours follow suit they ask: Why are your aircraft taking off? What does this mean then? These are not tourist aeroplanes. When you take off I shall as well. This situation is unpardonable. If something else occurs, what happens then?’

Finally, on Sunday President Erdogan from a rally at Izmir claimed with respect to the 1922 Asia Minor catastrophe:

‘Izmir! You who throw the giaours [referring to the Greeks of Asia Minor] in the sea and protect the helpless.’

Athens Diplomatic Response

For its part, the Greek Foreign Ministry handed over two separate statements one for airspace violations and a second about Izmir comments. With respect to national airspace, the Greek Ministry statement supported:

‘Turkey’s effort to equate the flights of Turkish military aircraft that violate Greece’s national sovereignty with the identification and interception missions the Hellenic Air Force carries out in defense of national sovereignty, is completely unacceptable. Turkish military aircraft violate Greek national air space on an almost daily basis, including through low-altitude overflights of inhabited Greek islands. This is a practice that Greece systematically condemns and reports, both bilaterally as well as to the competent international bodies.

Turkey’s leadership has to realise that international law must be respected by everybody, in its entirety. Selective application of its provisions merely serves to expose Turkey, while at the same time undermines regional security and stability. Specifically with regard to the Aegean, we reiterate that its legal status is clear and fully enshrined in International Law, leaving no room for doubt. Turkey, a NATO ally and a candidate country for accession to the EU, would do well to adopt Greece’s sober, lawful, and responsible stance, promoting good neighbourly relations, for its own benefit as well as for the benefit of the wider region.’

Further, in relation to the Izmir statements, the Greek Foreign Minister posited on Sunday:

‘Greece is not going to be swept away in the instrumentalisation of foreign policy to serve domestic political expediencies, or use history with terms that are offensive to neighbouring countries…Such unacceptable references undermine the trust we hope to build between our countries and are not in line with the European perspective that the Turkish leadership claims to support.’

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