For quite some time, Turkey’s playing the role of regional heavy and awkward NATO ally had allowed Greece to cultivate closer relations with several countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the United States.
Now that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is personally engaged in a strategy to mend relations with its neighbors and others, the notable exceptions being Greece and Cyprus, Greek diplomats and other officials are assessing the effectiveness of his new approach and trying to find ways to respond.
Turkey’s main goal at the moment is to get on the good side of the United States, after the serious spat prompted by Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system. While the State Department is more amenable to normalizing relations than the Congress, Ankara is using the conflict in Ukraine to underline its “indispensable” role as a NATO member in the area. It has sold Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Ukraine and is in talks to provide more types of UAVs for offensive use.
Since the US made clear it had withdrawn its support for the EastMed gas pipeline project involving Cyprus, Greece and Israel, Turkey has been emboldened to present itself as the country without which no energy, as well as other, deals can be made in the area.
Athens is not willing to be dragged deep into the conflict involving Ukraine, other than fulfilling its conventional duties as a NATO member. This means the use of bases in Souda and Alexandroupoli and Greece is worried that the US will make additional demands.
Israeli officials are assuring Greece that the desire to normalize relations with Turkey, disrupted since 2015, will not affect bilateral cooperation.