Obviously anxious about a major defeat in upcoming local elections, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting with constant provocations to turn the attention of the electorate away from the country’s major economic problems.

On 25 March Turkish fighter jets harassed the helicopter carrying Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to the Greek island of Agathonisi for a Greek Independence Day celebration.

Yesterday, donning the role of a latter day sultan, Erdogan threatened to turn the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque.

Pretending to be the protector of the entire Islamic world, Erdogan is attacking both allies and foes in a bid to rally the most extreme elements in Turkish society.

He has chosen the path of political tensions and provocations in order to conceal the impasse into which his monarchical rule has led his country.

Exploiting the failed 2016 coup against him, Erdogan transformed Turkey into a lame democracy, without freedom of the press, with imprisonment and threats against those whom he views as potential enemies, and with all power concentrated in his imperial palace.

The Turkish president’s extreme rhetoric may be targeting the domestic electorate with a view to electoral gains, but it is still dangerous and destabilising for the broader region of the eastern Mediterranean.

It is very easy for things to spin out of control due to a solitary incident – such as last year’s capture of two Greek military officers and their imprisonment in Turkey.

Because of the megalomania of Turkey’s self-styled sultan, there is an increasing danger of an unforeseen military clash.

Erdogan constantly cultivates the sense of a quest for lost Ottoman grandeur and at the same time he disputes Turkey’s traditional ties with the West.

Confronted with this extreme nationalistic rhetoric, the Greek side must maintain its composure, forge a unified domestic front, and rely on its traditional alliances.

At a time when the Turkish leader is threatening to rupture his ties with Europe and the US, Greece has every reason to defend and upgrade its relations with both the EU and Washington.

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