A ray of hope for Greek-Turkish relations
In his speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke about a major difference separating Greece and Turkey, and not about the single one, referring to the delimitation of maritime zones.
It was a seemingly small but at the same time important shift in rhetoric that could form the basis for developments, leading to the de-escalation of tension and a rapprochement between the two sides.
Combined with the non-renewal by Ankara of its Navtex for the Oruç Reis and the survey vessel’s withdrawal – along with Turkish warships – from the region, a not necessarily over-optimistic but quite realistic person could assume that the groundwork is being laid for dialogue.
The prospect of European Union sanctions, the conclusions of the Med 7 summit, the announcements made by the Greek prime minister for the significant reinforcement of the country’s armed forces, as well as the U.S. secretary of state’s visit to Cyprus, are pieces of a complex puzzle that is still taking shape. It is a puzzle that Ankara cannot ignore.
Despite the verbal outbursts of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and top government officials, the Turkish leadership has before it the opportunity to contribute to a change of atmosphere and to initiate a de-escalation, to the benefit not only of the two countries but the wider region as well. If Turkey does not insist on its excessive and objectively impossible demands, such as the demilitarisation of the islands that are – unfortunately – under constant threat, then developments can take place.
All of this, of course, presupposes that Turkey cease its threats and illegal activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, agreement on a viable solution to the Cyprus problem, the recognition of the single sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and that the benefits from the exploitation of any energy resources are equitably distributed, as requested by the international community and Nicosia is willing to do.
Within Greece, it is incumbent on everyone to show due responsibility, both the ruling party in its entirety and the opposition – and SYRIZA in particular. The bitterness, annoyance and even the anger of the past, though understandable in some cases do not justify internal party rifts or a divisive atmosphere created by the other parties over the management of an issue so big, it is existential.
At the end of the day, politicians should have in mind that the final judge will not be individual voters, but history itself.
(A version of this article was originally published by Kathimerini and reproduced by permission.)