Amid rising tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan explicitly invoked the burning of Smyrna at the end of the Greco-Turkish War. “We have only one word to tell Greece: Do not forget Izmir,” Erdogan said in a speech early last month, using the Turkish name for the coastal city that was the scene of atrocities targeting the substantial Greek populace after it was taken by Turkish forces in September 1922. “We may come suddenly one night,” Erdogan added, using his oft-repeated phrase when he warned of launching an operation into neighboring Syria.
The comments came on the centenary of the grim events referenced. Smyrna had been occupied by Greece in 1919, and its fall to the Turks was followed by the torching of the Greek and Armenian districts of the city, and the expulsion of the districts’ inhabitants. An undetermined number were killed after being relocated into Turkey’s interior.
Aug. 30 is commemorated by Turkey as Victory Day, commemorating the defeat of the Greek army in the Battle of Dumlupınar, which allowed the taking of Smyrna/Izmir days later. Greece, in turn, marks Sept. 14 as the National Remembrance Day for the Genocide of the Greeks of Asia Minor. (Greek Reporter, Greek Herald)
On Aug. 28, Turkey charged that Greece used a Russian-made missile system to harass its F-16 fighter jets carrying out a reconnaissance mission in international airspace. The S-300 missile system based on the island of Crete apparently locked on to the Turkish fighters, in what Ankara called a “hostile action.” (Al Jazeera)
The current dispute stems from a treaty signed the year after the burning of Smyrna, which gave offshore islands to Greece on condition that they remain demilitarized. On Sept. 26, Ankara said Turkish drones had recorded Greek landing craft carrying military vehicles donated by the US en route to the islands of Lesbos and Samos, accusing Athens of a “covert occupation” in violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. (MEE, Daily Sabah, PRI)
Turkey and Greece are also at odds over which country has rights to drill for hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean waters around Cyprus. Turkey is also opposed to the recent US decision to lift an arms embargo on Cyprus. The island of Cyprus has been divided since a 1974 conflict between a Greek-backed internationally recognized government that controls the south and a Turkish-backed breakaway state in the north. (Al Jazeera, PRI)
Photo via HALC