A Turkish soldier stands guard in the Turkish Syrian border city of Karkamis in the southern region of Gaziantep, on Wednesday as Turkish army tanks and pro-Ankara Syrian opposition fighter trucks positioned two kilometres west from the Syrian Turkish border town of Jarabulus, prepare to move position.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s upcoming visit to Greece could mark a turning point in bilateral relations between the two countries, as the circumstances today have absolutely nothing in common with those of the past.
Ties between Athens and Ankara have been strained even during periods of relative stability since the 1950s – to restrict ourselves to modern history. Efforts of rapprochement were usually prompted by the big alliances, which have always been sensitive to the strategic importance of the neighboring country in the West’s broader interests.
Turkey’s strategy has always relied on this basic premise, and Greek foreign policy has, by default, always been dictated within this restricted framework.
This summer’s failed military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had a marked effect on Ankara’s international stance. Turkey has not cut itself off from the Western security system as many had claimed or hoped, but has instead taken affirmative action on the fringes of its immediate area of interest in order to avert situations that could directly threaten its integrity.
The results of this policy are already visible. Strikes by the Turkish Air Force in northern Syria and the entry into the latter country yesterday of Turkish troops and tanks would not have been possible had it not been for a restoration of ties with Moscow, which had banned Turkish flights over Syria after a Russian warplane was shot down on the border last November.
Whether or not the aforementioned development comes up against Washington’s alleged plans for the creation of a Kurdish zone in northern Syria is of no concern to Turkey, which considers it’s defending the same vital interests. Turkey is claiming a role in the developing situation in Syria and this is why it reconsidered its position toward the country’s leader, Bashar Hafez al-Assad, overnight.
On the other hand, the restoration of ties between Turkey and Israel aims to show that Erdogan is not simply siding with those fighting the West, as his critics argue, and that his policy is pragmatic and serves his country’s interests.
Cavusoglu’s upcoming visit should be examined within this framework, given that Ankara does not place Greece in the same category as other European countries which are looking for pretexts to exclude Turkey from the EU.
Greece, however, should not operate as a bastion of certain European obsessions, but become, along with other countries, the catalyst for a European-Turkish understanding. If not, we are simply heading for turbulent times.