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Half of Turks say recent tension with Greece part of gov’t’s election strategy: survey

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More than 51 percent of Turks think the recent tension between Turkey and Greece is a sham fight aimed at creating an artificial agenda before the 2023 elections, with only 26.2 percent disagreeing with the argument, local media reported on Wednesday, citing the results of a recent opinion survey.

Özer Sencar, the owner of MetroPOLL, tweeted the results on Wednesday of his company’s survey, saying, “Our people think the tension with Greece is a move oriented towards the elections.”

When asked “Do you think the tension between Greece and Turkey that has been going on for the past month is an effort to create an [artificial] agenda for the [2023] election?” 51.5 percent of respondents replied “Yes,” with the figure including 36.2 percent of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters and 37.9 percent of supporters of its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The same rate peaks at 69 percent among supporters of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which is followed by the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) (68.5 percent), the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) (66.5 percent), the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party (54.8 percent) — an ally of the CHP –- and the Islamist opposition Felicity Party (SP) (38.7 percent).

Greece and Turkey have a fraught history going back centuries with disputes over maritime borders and the 1974 division of Cyprus.

The two uneasy NATO neighbors have long-standing sea and air boundary disputes that lead to near-daily air force patrols and interception missions mostly around Greek islands near Turkey’s coastline.

Earlier this month Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a rally that Greece would pay a “heavy price” for harassing Turkish fighter jets over the Aegean and referenced Turkey’s 1922 takeover of the historic Greek city of Smyrna, now İzmir, a bitter memory for the Greeks.

Turkey said Greece had used a Russian-made air defense system to harass Turkish jets and is stationing troops on islands in the Aegean Sea in violation of peace treaties.

Greece rejects the allegations and often accuses Turkey of raising tensions, including through overflights of Greek islands.

Peter Stano, the European Commission’s foreign policy spokesman, previously said in a tweet that Erdoğan’s “ongoing hostile remarks” raise serious concerns and fully contradict much-needed de-escalation efforts in the eastern Mediterranean, underlining that such threats and aggressive rhetoric were “unacceptable & must stop.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday he was always open to a meeting with Erdoğan but that he could not force one.

“I consider recent statements by the Turkish president unacceptable. However, we will always try to keep communication channels open,” he said.

Asked whether he thinks Turkey is going to provoke a military conflict in the Aegean, Mitsotakis answered that he could not “even imagine a military confrontation.” But he warned that in such a scenario Greece’s armed forces would give a “decisive answer.”

Main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, however, described the developments as a “sham fight” between the countries’ leaders, saying, “Both of them are losing votes. Therefore, the two populists play war cards. That’s the mentality!”

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