According to recent news reports, the United Nations and Turkey are mulling the creation of a “humanitarian contact group” which will meet on Turkish territory under the auspices of the international organization with the participation of Ukrainian and Russian officials. According to the same report, the initiative was discussed during a telephone call between UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey is reportedly also involved in a naval effort to evacuate civilians from the port city of Mariupol, which is of particular interest to Athens due to its sizable ethnic Greek community.
The report is interesting for two reasons: The one has to do with Turkey’s diplomatic activity from the perspective of the global power balance and international relations, both during the war in Ukraine and the day after. How easy will it be for Greece to deal with the ongoing and potentially escalating challenges from a state donning the peacemaker suit with the tolerance, or even the direct support, of key governments and despite its military activity in occupied Cyprus, the Aegean Sea, Iraq or Libya?
The second reason has to do with the fact that amid a major crisis like the war in Ukraine, the UN chief is in talks with Erdogan notwithstanding the fact that the latter is the leader of a country which has violated a series of Security Council resolutions. This is food for thought for Greece’s political class. Given the major risks and crises facing the world at the moment, the need for understanding and consensus should come before any ideological or other differences. If Guterres and Erdogan can explore the possibility of cooperation on such a level, why should this not be possible for Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Alexis Tsipras, or any other political leader for that matter?
No more needs to be said about the chasm separating Greece’s main political rivals. We are all very much aware of the differences between them. However, given the numerous and concurrent crises one has to ask: Would it really be so bad for their profile or that of their parties if the two leaders sought some basic level of communication and coordination on the big issues?
Even if that is beyond their ability, they should at least shed the toxic attitudes which are sowing division among an already polarized public.