Greek-Turkish relations are not moving forward. The prime minister may have started his administration believing that progress could be made, but today the impasse is obvious and no light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.
Greece, Turkey and Cyprus have entered a pre-election trajectory. It has been shown historically that no government can afford to spend political capital in the runup to elections, even if there was room for consensus, which today there isn’t.
Exploratory talks continue between the two sides without anyone expecting anything to happen. However, there does not seem to be substantial communication between Athens and Ankara.
In fact, we have entered a vicious cycle of statements and counter-statements that is self-powered, and certainly provides news to the media that keep the issue high on the agenda.
As things stand, the best you can expect is continuous crisis management with the aim of avoiding an escalation or an accident. As political pressure grows on both sides of the Aegean, so will the pressure for tougher statements or actions. Besides, when politicians enter the pre-election arena, they function more as politicians than as players on a complex geopolitical chessboard. In this case, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is very pressured. For him, it is not just a matter of losing the next elections, because he does not have an exit strategy. He will try what he can to save himself.
Obviously, he has some plans in relation to Greece. He escalates the issue of the island demilitarization and, for the first time, links it to Greek sovereignty of the islands. And for the first time in a century, he tries to reopen the issue of the Treaty of Lausanne. It is difficult to guess Turkey’s next step. Will it address those who co-signed the treaty? Will it appeal to the United Nations Security Council, asking for “precautionary measures” against Greece, or will it actually question its right to supply and transport troops to some islands? Predicting is not easy because any decisions, in practice, will be made by one person.
What can Athens do? Continue strengthening its deterrent power, as it is already doing. Lessen the continuous statements by competent and irrelevant ministers which may bring some votes but don’t do anything to help – quite the opposite. And make sure it informs all the centers of power abroad about Greek positions, while there is time. Silent determination domestically and effective diplomatic activity abroad should be the goal in the coming weeks.