OPINION

Different perspectives

different-perspectives

The refugee and migrant crisis has pushed Greek-Turkish relations and unresolved issues between the two countries back to the forefront.

The status quo has been maintained from the Treaty of Lausanne to the present day but a lot, of course, has changed in the meantime. Every so often, Ankara puts demands on the table either with the intention to play them as strong cards before withdrawing them or because it hopes to get what it wants.

A typical example of this tactic is how it plays the issue of the – provocative and notorious – so-called “gray zones” in the Aegean, where it contests Greece’s sovereignty. Turkey appears to be in no rush. It throws issues on the table and waits.

Greece, on the other hands, moves according to two different dogmas. One is the policy of the moderate former foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, according to which Greece needs to buy time and avoid sitting down at the negotiating table or take its differences with Turkey to the International Court of Justice.

The second line does not have a name per se, but this dictates that issues need to be resolved as fast as possible because there are direct dividends to be gained from cutting back on defense spending and taking the wind out of Turkey’s sails.

Everyone who knows the issues also knows that the two countries have come very close to an agreement on territorial waters and other thorny areas of dispute.

The issue, however, is that no Greek government under the present circumstances could take on the responsibility for an agreement where some convergence has been achieved. Experts and diplomats already agree to what the contours of such a deal would look like. Past government and experts have already put a lot of work into it. Yet the Greek public has an entirely different point of view of Greek-Turkish relations.

So the Molyviatis path is the path that Greece will follow to put off talks.

The danger, however, is that it may be forced into negotiations by a diplomatic or other episode at a time when conditions are not conducive for a satisfactory outcome. This is a danger we need to avert by maintaining the preventive strength of the armed forces without falling into the trap of escalation. Most importantly, though, the country needs to get back on its feet and keep building strong alliances.