Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Closed channels bode ill

COMMENT

TAGS: Turkey, Diplomacy

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has drawn a red line regarding Greece’s response to any Turkish attempt to drill for hydrocarbons in Greek sovereign territory. He was right to do so. Athens is unlikely to be blamed for any unexpected escalation after having sent every signal it possibly could. After all, it is the same national line that had been expressed by officials of the previous government under Alexis Tsipras to partners and allies.

The government has done everything it can in terms of its allies. The relationship with Israel is consolidated and solid. The same with Egypt. Relations with the United States – with all of the uncertainties stemming from the stance of President Donald Trump – are on the right track. France has expressed its support for Greek interests and will be showing this in practice soon.

The question that many citizens are posing is: “Fine, what if Turkey continues down the same path and Greece needs to respond? What will our allies do then?” To avoid unnecessary disappointment, it is important to remember that no one will fight and sacrifice human lives in another’s battle. What they will most likely do is enhance their presence in the region so as to act as a deterrent. They will make statements and threaten sanctions, but that’s about as far as they’ll go. The paradox is that the only leader who can pick up the telephone and speak convincingly to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the midst of any crisis is the German chancellor. We can’t know what Trump would do, France’s Emmanuel Macron has a very strained relationship with Erdogan and the European Union’s new leadership means little to Ankara right now.

For the time being, we can only speculate on how any such situation would evolve. It is good to be prepared for every scenario so that we are not alone and can avoid any unnecessary escalation, as well as the political blame game at home.

What is worrying is that the channels of communication between Athens and Ankara appear to be closed right now and the issue seems to have become a personal matter for the Turkish leader. Closed channels and obsessions are never good omens in international relations. And Greece certainly cannot be blamed for that.

Online