Greece- Turkey Clash

  • IASbaba
  • October 23, 2020
  • 0
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Topic: General Studies 1,2:

  • Contemporary World History
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Greece- Turkey Clash

Context: Greece (EU member) said it would be extending a wall along its border with Turkey (candidate for EU membership) to prevent potential mass crossings by migrants into its territory.

Greece-Turkey Relations

  • For centuries, Turkey and Greece have shared a chequered history. 
  • In 1830, Greece won independence from modern Turkey’s precursor, the Ottoman Empire.
  • In 1923, the two countries exchanged their Muslim and Christian populations – a migration whose scale has only been surpassed in history by the Partition of India.
  • The two nations continue to oppose each other on the decades-old Cyprus conflict, and on two occasions have almost gone to war over exploration rights in the Aegean Sea.
  • Both countries are, however, part of the 30-member NATO alliance

Relations between the two nations have seen a marked downturn this year. 

  1. Issue of Migration
  • Consequences of Syrian War: Since the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011, vast numbers of displaced Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey. 
  • Refugee Crisis: According to the latest known figures, Turkey hosts some 37 lakh refugees from Syria, and is feeling the socio-economic and political strain of their presence in the country.
  • Refugee Crisis spilling to EU: In 2015, the refugee crisis reached its peak as thousands drowned while attempting to cross over to the West using water routes. Around 10 lakh reached Greece and Italy.
  • Deal with EU: In 2016, Turkey agreed to prevent migrants from crossing into the EU, and the bloc in return promised funds to help the former manage the refugees on its soil.
  • Reneging on Deal: However, in February 2020, Turkey said it would not be honouring the 2016 agreement, asserting its inability to sustain another refugee wave. As a result, Turkey had allowed thousands of migrants to cross the border into Greece and the European Union, irking the latter
  • Using deal as leverage: Turkey is criticised for using the migrant issue as a means to bring its western allies on board with its military campaign in Syria’s Idlib province, where hostilities had escalated in preceding weeks.
  • Greece’s response: Greek government has said it would extend its already existing 10 km long wall with Turkey by an additional 26 km by the end of April 2021, spending EUR 63 million on the project.
  1. Eastern Mediterranean dispute
  • For 40 years, Turkey and Greece have disagreed over rights to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, which covers significant oil and gas deposits.
  • Increasingly assertive under President Erdogan, Turkey in July 2020 announced that it would be exploring a disputed part of the sea for oil and gas. 
  • Greece responded by placing its air force, navy and coastguard on high alert.
  • After brief peace, Greece has once again started conducting seismic surveys near the Greek island of Kastellorizo. Greece considers the waters surrounding the island as its own and described Turkey’s actions as a “direct threat to peace in the region”.
  • Greece Stand: A signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), it maintains that its continental shelf should be calculated while considering its island territories in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • Turkey’s stand: Ankara, which has not signed UNCLOS, argues a nation’s continental shelf should be calculated from its mainland, and maintained that its activity was “fully within Turkish continental shelf”
  1. The Hagia Soophia row
  • The Hagia Sophia was originally a cathedral in the Byzantine Empire before it was turned into a mosque in 1453, when Constantinople fell to Ottoman forces.
  • In the 1930s, however, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, shut down the mosque and turned it into a museum in an attempt to make the country more secular.
  • Many Greeks continue to revere the Hagia Sophia, and view it as a key part of Orthodox Christianity.
  • President Erdogan of Turkey converted Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque which Greece called the site’s conversion an “affront to civilisation of the 21st century”.

Implications of rising Greece-Turkey Tensions 

  • Rising Nationalistic tendencies in both the countries which would run against the plans of integration of Turkey with EU
  • Another war in the region, especially in the wake of pandemic, will further plunge the countries into recession and poverty.
  • All this impacts the stability in the region which further puts strain on International Organisations tasked with maintaining peace in world. UN, whose credibility is already battered due to allegations of politicisation of institution, will be under immense pressure to prove its utility.
  • Rule of law in international Politics will be challenged.
  • India: The bilateral relation of India-Turkey will be further strained especially after Turkey has voiced its criticism on India’s abrogation of Article 370 and enactment of Citizenship Amendment Act.


All stakeholders in the region – US, EU, Russia, Iran, Syria – should try to help resolve the conflict at the earliest before it blows out of proportion

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