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Erdoğan ups rhetoric on Greece again, warning of action by ‘crazy Turks’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has once again upped his rhetoric against Greece, warning that the “crazy Turks” will take action if Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis “does anything wrong” to Turkey, the T24 news website reported.

Erdoğan’s remarks came in contrast to moderate comments made by Mitsotakis on Thursday who said he believes it is possible to resolve Greece’s differences with Turkey by speaking with Turkey’s president, stressing that the two neighbors will not go to war.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony in İstanbul on Friday, Erdoğan said Turkey does not have any intention of “hitting” Athens as long as Greece does not do anything against Turkey.

“If you attempt to arm the islands [in the Aegean Sea], will we just sit with our hands tied? Look Mitsotakis … keep this in mind, if you do attempt to do wrong [to us], the crazy Turks will take action,” Erdoğan told the Greek prime minister.

The crazy Turks is a reference to the “These Crazy Turks,” a best-selling novel about the Turkish War of Independence, written by late author Turgut Özakman. Published in 2005, three years after Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, it praises the achievements of Turks under the direst of circumstances, leading to their triumph with the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Although both NATO members, Turkey and Greece have decades-old disputes over an array of issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean Sea and disagreements over the airspace there. The friction has brought them to the brink of war three times in the last half century.

Turkey claims Greece is violating international agreements by militarizing islands in the Aegean Sea. Greece counters that the treaties allow for a limited military presence, and notes that Turkey maintains a sizeable troop presence on the Turkish mainland opposite the Greek islands.

Erdoğan has repeatedly said Turkish troops could descend on Greece “suddenly one night,” and even threatened to hit Athens with ballistic missiles.

Both Erdoğan and Mitsotakis face elections in the first half of this year. Erdoğan’s efforts to increase tensions with Greece are seen as an attempt to attract nationalist voters.

Turkey is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in June; however, Erdoğan announced this week that the elections could be held a month earlier, on May 14.

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