Greece worried regional balance of power shifting - Kathimerini
The U.S. decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, effectively opening the way for a Turkish invasion, has raised concerns in Greece about a shift in the balance of power in the region at a time when Turkey has increased provocations against Cyprus, Greek newspaper Kathimerini said on Tuesday.
A Syrian offensive by Turkey could also spark a new wave of refugees attempting to reach Europe, with Greece bearing the brunt of the exodus, the newspaper said.
The Turkish Defence Ministry said on Tuesday preparations for an offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces in northern Syria were complete. U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Turkey's border with Syria following a weekend phone call with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to invade northeast Syria to remove from the border area U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara sees as an existential threat. But the presence of U.S. troops in the region helping the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) has thus far prevented an incursion.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to Greece last weekend did not suggest changes to Washington’s attitude toward Turkey’s drilling in the east Mediterranean, Kathimerini said.
Pompeo on Saturday warned Turkey not to engage in drilling activity that was illegal and unacceptable in the eastern Mediterranean off the divided island of Cyprus.
The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 into a predominantly Greek Cypriot south, whose government is internationally recognised, and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north that is only recognised by Turkey.
Tensions have intensified in the region after Turkey announced last week it would be sending a drill ship to an area off Cyprus’s southern coast for which France’s Total and Italy’s Eni signed an exploration agreement last month with the Cyprus government.
The tightening of U.S.-Greece cooperation in the fields of defence and infrastructure has ruffled Turkish feathers, Kathimerini said, prompting Turkey on Monday to violate Greek airspace 56 times and conduct seven overflights in the Aegean.