Two Turkeys

Apparently, Greece’s foreign minister is deeply convinced that there are two Turkeys. One is the Turkey of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: pro-European, moderate and flexible. The other is that of Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok: typically Eastern, intransigent and aggressive. This would explain the fact that while Ozkok has said that Turkish fighter jets will fly wherever they want to over the Aegean Sea (his remarks were verified on Monday as 32 aircraft violated our air space on seven occasions), George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul announced three new confidence building measures aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries’ militaries. Even if we accept that Papandreou’s insistence on turning a blind eye to the Turkish military establishment’s assertiveness, instead conversing only with representatives of moderate Turkey, has yielded some fruit – specifically, showing Ankara as the sole source of intransigence in Greek-Turkish disputes and the Cyprus issue – this tactic cannot acquire the status of official strategy. The first reason is because it has once again been proven that the military bureaucracy has the final say in Turkish politics. Secondly, because Ankara is eager to see Athens’s constant conciliatoriness as a sign of backing down. And, thirdly, because Greece has no reason or power to spearhead Turkey’s democratization and Europeanization, hoping to tip the current balance of power within Ankara in favor of the moderates. Whether this will take place depends primarily on the people of Turkey and their political leaders. The Greek government must re-examine its tactic as Ankara’s conciliatory tone is negated by its aggressive behavior.

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