Turkish-Greek relations at key juncture as Ankara takes advantage of instability - analysis

Greek-Turkish relations are at a critical juncture and tensions are likely to peak later this year as Turkey aims to challenge the status-quo in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, columnist Alexis Papachelas said on Wednesday at Kathimerini.   

Tensions have soured between the long-feuding neighbours and NATO allies over the past year, as Eastern Mediterranean players have stepped up gas exploration and drilling efforts, which have resurfaced old conflicts over maritime borders.

Ankara has created a systematic strategy that seeks to take advantage of the instability and weaknesses of the government in Athens, according to Papachelas.

“Turks are patient. They build up their arguments and their claims while waiting for the next opportunity. The aim is to drag Greece to the negotiating table under unfavourable conditions,” he said. 

Ankara is likely to trigger a crisis to force Greece to debate key issues, said Papachelas, adding that though Greece and Cyprus have powerful allies, the international climate is not entirely favourable. 

European Council President Donald Tusk called on Turkey last week to “respect the sovereign rights of EU member states”, after a Turkish drilling vessel entered waters in the Greek Cypriot administration’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) this week.

Cyprus was split between the Greek Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, after Turkey invaded the island in 1974. Turkey maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state recognised by only Ankara.

The United States has endorsed the EastMed pipeline project of Greece, Cyprus and Israel, while a Senate bill introduced last month signalled a significant change to Washington’s approach to the Eastern Mediterranean, ending the arms embargo imposed on Cyprus in 1987 in order to encourage reunification.

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