OPINION

Commentary

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s impending visit to the USA is not expected to bring about any radical changes, whether positive or negative, either in our bilateral relations or in US policy on our regional problems. Despite this, the current context is neither static nor unchangeable. It will be affected by the Simitis-Bush talks, as they will shape the nature, not only of their personal relations but also of the relations between the two governments, which may entail limited but not insignificant political changes. The fact that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit will visit the USA right after Simitis seems to confirm that US diplomacy continues to treat Greece and Turkey as a special duo; only that it ascribes differing levels of importance to each half. The State Department gives priority to our next-door neighbor because of its strategic weight and role. This is even more true today given that the Republican Party has always valued Turkey as a US ally. Greek-Turkish relations have, no doubt, improved considerably over recent years. However, a shadow has lately been cast over them, despite the fact that Athens has avoided causing a breach even when it deems that its interests are being undermined. The change, however, is primarily a change in climate. As regards the convergence or divergence of interests, things have not really improved. Here, Ankara tends to align itself with American policy and thereby tries to promote its national interests. The issue of relations between the Euroforce and NATO member states which do not belong to the EU is indicative of this. It is an open secret that Washington encouraged Turkey’s demand for an equal say in decision-making even if, officially, the USA preferred to play the role of the mediator. Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou will definitely face intense pressure on this issue. They will also be pressured to promote settlements on other unresolved issues on the Greek-Turkish front. Finally, talks will definitely focus on the issue of terrorism. This time, however, the US government seems to have chosen the tactic of exerting subtle pressure rather than openly expressing its discontent as it did in the past. Perhaps because the level of cooperation in this field has left no room for misunderstanding.