Turkey stance comes as no surprise

Turkey stance comes as no surprise

The resumption of Turkey’s challenging Greek sovereignty over some islands in the east Aegean with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s proposal that all differences between the two countries, including those which dispute Greece’s rights, are referred to the international court at The Hague came as no surprise to anyone following developments in the last few months.

In fact, several experienced diplomats had estimated that while on the election campaign trail, the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would seek to remind everyone that the shift to a more positive attitude to Greece reflects circumstances, and not a strategic shift in Turkish foreign policy in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.

In short, it would not be possible for the Erdogan government to cede Greek-Turkish affairs to the nationalist opposition.

Indeed, the combination of the launch ceremony for the TCG Anadolu helicopter and drone carrier with Erdogan’s statements about the “Blue Homeland” and Cavusoglu’s remarks about the temporary nature of the Greek-Turkish lull, highlights, to a significant extent, what realistic expectations may be about in a future discussion process with Ankara.

While there is a sincere desire in Athens for a dialogue process with Ankara, it is becoming clear that a number of issues need to be clarified. First of all, Athens accepts the appeal to The Hague in principle only on the issue of the continental shelf. While it is quite clear that Athens can discuss in good faith the possibility of referring some other disputes to The Hague, these certainly do not include sovereignty issues. Quite simply, Athens cannot possibly accept that the International Court of Justice in The Hague can have any authority to decide whether an island belongs to Greece or not.

It is also clear that a process to restart the dialogue will include concrete steps, such as a return to the confidence building measures, political dialogue, exploratory contacts, the so-called positive agenda, the NATO deconfliction and other standard forms of contact. 

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