A highly unusual online exchange took place on Twitter between the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey late on Sunday before the former deleted his tweets - but only from the English version of his account.
The official English-speaking account of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (@Tsipras_eu) posted four tweets addressed to his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, needling him about Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet and Turkey’s violations of Greek airspace.
“To Prime Minister Davutoglu: Fortunately our pilots are not mercurial as yours against the Russians #EuTurkey” Tsipras tweeted.
Both prime ministers attended an EU-Turkey summit on refugees in Brussels Sunday. Tsipras did not explain whether his tweets reproduced a conversation between the two or were written especially for Twitter.
“What is happening in the Aegean is outrageous and unbelievable #EUTurkey” Tsipras continued. “We’re spending billions on weapons. You--to violate our airspace, we--to intercept you #EUTurkey” Tsipras said in a third tweet, referring to intrusions of Turkish planes into Greek airspace, which Turkey contests, and Greek and Turkish pilots frequently buzzing each other.
Incredible series of tweets from Tsipras to Turkish PM pic.twitter.com/lMdkEi8QaB— Danny Kemp (@dannyctkemp) November 29, 2015
Tsipras said the two countries should focus on saving refugees, not on weapons.
“We have the most modern aerial weapons systems--and yet, on the ground, we can’t catch traffickers who drown innocent people #EUTurkey,” the Greek premier said in a fourth tweet.
Davutoglu chose to respond to only the first tweet and not engage in a detailed dialogue.
“Comments on pilots by @atsipras seem hardly in tune with the spirit of the day. Alexis: let us focus on our positive agenda,” @Ahmet_Davutoglu responded.
Comments on pilots by @atsipras seem hardly in tune with the spirit of the day. Alexis: let us focus on our positive agenda.— Ahmet Davutoglu (@Ahmet_Davutoglu) November 29, 2015
The tweets quickly sparked a vigorous reaction on the Twitter, with many condemning Tsipras engaging in dialogue in this manner, but a few defending him.
“Tsipras showing off his twitter ‘diplomacy’ skills,” said a user calling himself The Greek Analyst.
“Much as I’m increasingly critical of Tsipras lately, remarkable Twitter diplomacy,” commented another user.
Then, the @Tsipras_EU account deleted the four tweets, which have remained posted, however, in Tsipras’ Greek language account, @atsipras.
The deletion sparked further furious tweeting, with comments such as “who is handling your account?” being the most common.
Then, the English account posted further tweets, but less controversial this time.
“Important Summit today for the EU, Turkey and our broader region #EUTurkey”
A last Tsipras tweet obliquely referred to the deleted ones:
“We are in the same neighborhood and we have to talk honestly so we can reach solutions #EUTurkey.”
And the comments, of course, continue, both for and against this kind of Twitter diplomacy.
There were some who saw the humorous side of things:
“The conflict escalates; a short while ago Tsipras commented ‘you’ve gained weight’ on one of Davutoglu’s Instagram photos from last summer,” user @dimmarg tweeted, in Greek.