Turkey has strongly condemned a Greek daily for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın deeming the move “a provocation.”
The headline in Dimokratia newspaper included a Turkish profanity that translates as “F— off, Mr. Erdoğan” in English. It appeared next to a photo of the president in the Greek newspaper, which also added the English translation.
Kalın on Sept. 20 strongly condemned the daily, saying that the headline doesn’t have anything to do with press freedom and the freedom of expression.
“This is a provocation,” he said, adding that exploratory talks may begin between the two NATO countries soon.
Another government official to condemn the headline was Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who said that the headline “will remain as a document of shame” in the history of the Greek press.
He also said that Turkey expects the Greek government to act on those responsible “aiming to sabotage the relations between the two countries.”
A day earlier, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun called on the Greek government to bring the daily to account.
“We condemned the incident in a letter we sent to our counterpart in the strongest possible way,” Altun tweeted on Sept. 19, referring to the letter sent to Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas.
“We call on the Greek government to bring those responsible to account,” he added.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry had already summoned Greece’s ambassador over the headline in Dimokratia newspaper, also available on its website.
The Greek Foreign Ministry said, “The use of offensive language is contrary to our country’s political culture and can only be condemned.”
However, the ministry also said freedom of expression and of the press were fully protected in the EU member country.
The two NATO countries are already locked in a heated dispute over energy exploration in contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey’s deployment last month of Oruç Reis research vessel prompted the neighbors to stage rival air and naval drills in strategic waters between the island of Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.
Last weekend, Ankara pulled the vessel back to the shore for what is initially said for “maintenance and replenishment” after its one-month mission. However, Erdoğan said on Sept. 17 that Turkey wanted to give diplomacy a chance and did not rule out a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis via videoconference or in a third country.
EU leaders are due to discuss possible sanctions against Turkey at their meeting on Sept. 24-25.