Early this week we took note of the increasingly tense border dispute between historic longtime enemies Greece and Turkey, specifically concentrated along the Evros River which separates the two. Athens charged that Turkish troops had conducted a land grab at a site where the river level went down, altering its course, or essentially orchestrating a quiet military ‘invasion’ of sovereign Greek territory in progress.
“At the camp there is now a small Turkish flag flying from a tree. Troops have rejected Greek demands to withdraw. It comes weeks after thousands of Syrian refugees failed to break through into Greece,” The Daily Mail has described of the dispute.
This also comes after months of Turkey’s Erdogan threatening to unleash Syrian refugee and migrant chaos on the EU — which he’s already made good on to a limited degree — resulting in clashes between Greek border patrols and an influx of Middle East migrants.
Erdogan’s blackmail targeting Greece and the EU has created soaring tensions between armed forces on each side of the border. In March Greece even began erecting huge concrete barriers at key crossings like the Kastanies crossing, given Turkish guards were letting throngs of asylum seekers pour through their side of the border. Needless to say, the ongoing militarization of what up until now has been a largely diplomatic arena fight presents the potential for a direct major flare-up of a border war.
Recent news footage out of Greece shows military patrols erecting make-shift border barriers:
And broadly, Athens significantly increased its naval and military personnel patrolling land and sea.
And now, as Voice of America observes, the conflict is again getting militarized amid another round of Turkish ‘blackmail’ threats:
Greece is mobilizing forces to boost defenses along its land frontiers with Turkey. The move as Turkey threatens to resume the flow of thousands of migrants to Europe through Greece. The deployment also follows plans by Greece to expand its border fence in the contentious border region.
Officials in Athens say they are deploying more than 400 specially trained officers, including riot police, in the northeast region of Evros.
The report notes there are already 1,100 Greek officers in the area placed on “code-red alert” status at a moment some 100,000 mainly Syrian refugees stand ready to push across the border.
Essentially Greece is moving to “build the wall” to make any near-term Turkish move to push migrants through a costlier, more difficult feat sure to back-fire — given that amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis it would again result in thousands being stuck in a ‘no man’s land’ border area, with political pressure and spotlight again coming on Ankara to solve a crisis of its own making.
It further comes, as VOA emphasizes, just “as lockdown measures are now relaxing across Europe and beyond,” prompting Turkey’s foreign minister to say Tuesday that “migrants and refugees in his country may as well be preparing to make the move anew to Europe — a remark that alarmed officials in Athens.”
Greek Conservative lawmaker Tassos Hadjivassiliou told VOA the massive wall concept as a physical barrier is “a no-brainer” – explaining further that:
“Once this fence goes up, Turkey will be severely compromised of its ability to push through migrants. And if that happens, then Ankara will have lost its most powerful tool of leverage against Europe… and its chances, therefore, of clinching a new deal with Brussels, plus added financial support will fade.”
At the height of the crisis in March, local news crews captured scenes of heavy machinery on the Greek side of a key Evros crossing erecting massive concrete blocks, likely to serve as foundation for a broader, more expansive wall along the porous land border with Turkey.