Tail winds provide impetus for Greek-Turkish ties

The Greek government views Ankara’s decision to announce its desire to remove the threat of war (in the event that Greece attempts to extend its territorial waters to 12 miles in the Aegean) as a very important goodwill gesture, indirectly linked to the change in mentality Ankara is obliged to undergo if it wants a future in Europe. The announcement, by Turkish Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc during a dinner last Thursday for chief editors of the Turkish press, indicated that lifting the casus belli did not require a decision by the Turkish Parliament, as when the decision was adopted in 1995, the then speaker had rejected a proposal for a vote on the issue. When the journalists reminded Arinc that the casus belli was Turkish policy from the 1970s, Arinc replied that «raking up the past does not lead anywhere. In this age we should abolish this decision.» Government and diplomatic sources have expressed Athens’s satisfaction with Arinc’s comments, which were subsequently confirmed by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. According to the sources, Turkey’s action sends the message that it is adapting to European conditions, realizing that it is not possible for accession negotiations (to the European Union) to begin as long as it continues to threaten an EU member state with war. They draw attention to Athens’s warm support for Ankara’s plans to join the EU. The same sources also emphasize that the timing of the initiative, coming just days before a visit by Greek Foreign Minister Petrols Molyviatis to Ankara (April 12 and 13), is aimed at confirming both sides’ desire to further political dialogue. After the statements by Arinc and Gul, it seems certain that political understanding on issues that are crucial for both sides will be further facilitated. Molyviatis has called the statements «an important step toward the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations» and added that Greece has always wanted to improve those relations. According to Molyviatis’s associates, he will be discussing with his Turkish counterpart all issues of interest to both sides, but this did not mean that specific agreements should be expected since, at least with regard to the continental shelf, neither side wants to speed up the dialogue. According to diplomatic analysts, although lifting the casus belli would be a positive development on Turkey’s part, it does not really affect the substance of bilateral problems.

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