Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

Handling Turkey

COMMENT

TAGS: Diplomacy, Turkey

As Greece’s relationship with Turkey appears increasingly precarious, the handling of the situation from the Greek side must be based on some basic parameters.

First, the country’s defenses must be strengthened. Economic difficulties limit the extent to which Greece can buy new weapons systems, and thus ways must be found to maximize the deterrent power of its existing weapons systems. In this context the upgrading of the F-16 fleet is being discussed.

Second, alliances and cooperation with the United States, our European partners and regional allies Israel and Egypt must be utilized. The recent multinational air force exercise Iniochos, with the participation of fighter jets from the US, UK, Italy, Israel, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt as an observer, sent out useful messages.

Third, Greece has to deepen cooperation with its diaspora, mainly in the US, but also in other countries. The well-planned initiative by the Greek-American community and the Armenian diaspora to prevent the sale of F-35 aircraft to Turkey is noteworthy.

Fourth, our politicians must demonstrate self-restraint. Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, with his often erratic behavior, represents a risk to the country. Nationalist slogans may be attractive to some voters on the far-right, but they do not fit into a wider national plan – on the contrary, they move in the opposite direction – and they cause damage. Many of his actions and statements have angered Greece’s eastern neighbor, without bringing any tangible benefits. We have to explain that they do not reflect the official Greek position, which is not an easy task as long as he remains in his post. In this case, national interest requires that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras takes specific action.

Despite the domestic discord, with the differences of opinion between ruling SYRIZA and Kammenos, the fact that more and more politicians and government officials are distancing themselves from the latter – most recently Alternate Defense Minister Fotis Kouvelis and former education minister Nikos Filis – should be taken into account by Turkey and the rest of the international community.

Everyone needs to show moderation and behave in a nationally responsible manner, even former officials. A statement a few weeks ago by former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos, that “a good Turk is a dead Turk,” was both unfortunate and condemnable.

Finally, this writer will not cease to point out the necessity of political consensus on national issues, the absence of which is a long-standing political malaise that weakens Greece, no matter who is in power.

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