Relations of trust

The talks between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed a willingness on both sides of the Aegean Sea to continue with the process of rapprochement and transcend the stereotype competitive behavior. Both governments are familiar with the difficulties inherited from the past but appear determined to consolidate the climate of cooperation and find solutions where these are possible. Despite the lack of credible information on the exact content of what was discussed during the private dinner between the two premiers Thursday, it is clear that both men seek to hammer out a relationship based on sincerity and trust which will allow them to resolve nagging hitches. This effort is driven by the reality that the priorities of the two leaders converge. Unlike other parties which are an organic part of Turkey’s «deep state» and which have more or less accepted the predominant role of the military, Erdogan’s ruling party has an interest in putting an end to this state of affairs. However, despite its commanding parliamentary majority, his Justice and Development Party cannot alone change the political status quo. Hence it is using the European Union as a lever to push democratization reforms. The EU will never begin accession negotiations with a state in which political life is under the shadow of the military. Athens would rather deal with a pro-European and moderate prime minister and, for this reason, it is willing to facilitate Erdogan’s efforts. Greece’s decision to respond positively to the Turkish demand in December and its ability to tilt Nicosia onto the same track is already a big help for Turkey. However, any assistance should come only in return to Ankara’s show of good will. It is interesting that both prime ministers have tried to protect bilateral relations against the fallout of failure to negotiate a deal on the reunification of Cyprus. The «no» vote by the Greek Cypriots in the referendum has not put the brakes on Greek-Turkish rapprochement. For now, Erdogan’s main goal is to secure the much-desired EU talks date without the burden of the Cyprus dispute on his shoulders. He has largely achieved his aim. A green light by the European Council in December would give the Turk premier an enormous boost. But if Europe turns its back to Ankara, the «deep state» might stage a comeback and attempt to topple Erdogan’s party. Such an outcome would unsettle the process of Greek-Turkish rapprochement but Athens would bear no responsibility.

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