Baerbock warns Turkey from inciting a new confrontation with Greece and launching another military offensive in Northern Syria
Turkey had repeatedly impeached Greece’s sovereignty over the island, also through military means. Turkish warplanes, flying over Greek islands are therefore not rare. The relationship between Greece and Turkey is very tense, resulting in Greece’s foreign minister criticizing Germany for its political stance toward Turkey. According to him, Germany’s arms exports, especially in maritime areas, are further jeopardizing the current balance of power, even though Turkey threatened Greece to incite a new war. Turkish president Erdogan recently announced that he will initiate a new operation for the sake of natural gas exploitation in the Mediterranean Sea.
In June, President Erdogan indirectly menaced Greece to launch a new war and further added that he was not joking. He asked Greece to demilitarize certain Greek islands. In 2020, Greek and Turkish warships were engaged in confrontations and skirmishes. Following Baerbock’s statements, Cavusoglu retorted: „Mrs. Baerbock just returned from Greece. I would show her more respect if she had also reminded the Greek government that they have to comply with the verdicts, issued by the European Court of Human Rights, which they used to ignore in the past.“
Foreign minister Baerbock further mentioned the imminent Turkish military offensive in Northern Syria and expressed her staunch rejection by stating that „military operations cause almost exclusively anguish and plight. Everyone possesses the inherent right to self-defense. But the principles of international law also impose binding restrictions and licit conditions, which further encompass the prohibition of retaliating strikes and abstract preventive attacks that are not covered by international law.“ Baerbock eventually told her Turkish counterpart that this prohibition also applies to the case of Northern Syria, under Germany’s political stances.
It is the first time that an official representative of the German Federal government publicly and openly displayed a critical attitude toward Turkey’s military actions in Northern Syria. On August 05, Turkish President Erdogan flew to Russia. Russia had previously rebuffed a new Turkish military offensive in Northern Syria during the so-called „Astana talks“ in Teheran. Turkey will expectedly embark on a new attempt for the sake of receiving Russia’s permission. Even though Germany now warned Turkey from launching a new military offensive, the incursions on Northern Syria in 2018 and 2019 proved that Turkish will eventually assert its interests, as the German Federal government failed to harshly condemn the Turkish government.
Despite that, Baerbock’s visit to Turkey and her open confrontation with the foreign minister appeared to be very surprising. The current leader of the left-wing oppositional HDP party, Mihat Sancar indeed, praised Baerbock for her critical attitude towards the Turkish foreign minister and stated that this was the first time that a German government member had used such contentious rhetoric while dealing with the Turkish government. The HDP has often been subjected to judicial harassment and persecution by the Turkish judicial system. Almost all HDP-affiliated mayors in the Kurdish-dominated Southeastern part of Turkey were deposed from their offices and their municipalities were forcibly put under receivership. The majority of HDP members and parliamentary deputies linger in prison or applied for political asylum in foreign countries. The upcoming Turkish elections are scheduled to take place in 2023. Erdogan’s AKP-led government has been under massive pressure. The HDP, which is currently subjected to repressive judicial proceedings by the Turkish judicial system, fears that their party will be outlawed to prevent them from participating in the elections. Baerbock’s visit to members of the HDP will thus, be met with rejection by staunch AKP supporters.
It, therefore, remains uncertain how Baerbock’s visit and her surprising confrontation with the Turkish foreign minister will influence Turkey’s and Germany’s bilateral relations.