Feb 18 2018

U.S. neutrality in Greek-Turkish disputes counterproductive, claims Greek journalist

A Greek journalist has criticized the longstanding U.S. practice of maintaining an equal distance in disputes between Greece and Turkey. According to this policy, the U.S. refrains from taking sides or passing judgment in disputes between the countries.  

Nikos Konstandaras' comments, published in Kathimerini, come at a time of rising tension between Greece and Turkey over the ownership of several islets in the Aegean Sea. Last week, a Greek and a Turkish patrol boat collided in the disputed waters. No injuries were reported and only minor damage was sustained. The circumstances leading to the collision remain unclear. The U.S. state department, in line with the equal distance policy, issued a statement encouraging both parties to de-escalate the situation.

In the article, Konstandaris suggests that by failing to condemn aggressive Turkish actions the U.S. is effectively endorsing Turkey’s use of bullying tactics in the international arena.

“Tolerance of Turkish bullying has made Turkey think that what it wants is what it should have. Perhaps now the United States will understand that the expediency of “equal distances” leads not to balance but to injustice.”

Konstandaras also warned that the U.S. policy not only harms Greece’s ability to defend its national sovereignty in the face of Turkish aggression, but also creates problems for the U.S. as Ankara increasingly comes to view itself and Washington as equals.

Konstandaras further notes that whilst EU member states appear increasingly aware of the dangers of indulging Turkish bullying, their ability to influence Ankara has diminished considerably.

“The European Union and some of its members have begun to treat Ankara with greater seriousness but they have little leverage. As long as Turkey is under the sway of Erdogan, promises of liberal democracy, of social justice and the prosperity that the EU once represented to Turks hold little sway. Unless the Europeans conceive of their own “Ottoman slap.”

http://www.ekathimerini.com/225892/opinion/ekathimerini/comment/us-policy-equal-distances-false-equivalences