OPINION

Enraging behavior

I?m afraid there are some differences between Greece and Turkey that will never be bridged. Why? Because every serious effort will be torpedoed by the intransigent and provocative behavior of certain circles in Ankara that insist on buttering up all those who believe that the Greek continental shelf extends all the way to Eskisehir. The most recent manifestation of this behavior was the violations of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets on the eve of Prime Minister George Papandreou?s visit to Turkey. The premier was seriously annoyed and said so in pointed terms. Overflights by Turkish military aircraft and warships entering far into Greek waters poison the atmosphere between the two countries more than anything else.

An interesting question, however, is why Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seemed so indifferent this time and did not rein in the military in light of Papandreou?s visit. When former Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis went to Ankara, the Turkish leader had telephoned him the day before his visit to assure him that he had spoken to military leaders and there would be no provocations. That did not happen before Papandreou?s trip.

Some credit these provocations to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who believes that Turkey must display a maximum show of strength toward Greece and the broader region. Others argue that it is the middle ranks of the Turkish armed forces up to their usual shenanigans, doing as they usually do regardless of any Greek official?s plans to visit their country. It is also interesting to note that during my last meeting and interview with Erdogan, he appeared unwilling to listen — or he pretended not to understand — when I asked him about Turkish warships sailing into Greek waters and the fighter jet overflights.

Whatever the situation, it is not possible that a omnipotent leader like Erdogan is unable to control the game with the military. The obvious conclusion is that either he is taking Davutoglu?s advice or he is allowing the military to do as it likes. What is most infuriating, however, and as one senior Greek diplomat notes, is the hypocrisy of Turkey?s official responses, in which it insinuates that Greece is overreacting.

Next time, at least we will know that Turkey is aware of the fact that such behavior is frustrating and leaves no room for talks in a climate of good faith.