OPINION

A game with many players

a-game-with-many-players

The escalation of a crisis in relations between Athens and Ankara typically leads to negotiation; this is understood by both sides, as protracting a clash creates the risk of a potential military confrontation which Greece certainly does not want and Turkey most likely would not desire either.

That is what happened in the crisis of 1987 and again in the Imia crisis of January 1996. The difference is that both of the aforementioned crises were bilateral affairs, while in the current one the number of involved parties is larger and, more significantly, they have differing, and sometimes even diametrically opposed interests.

The first major issue is that the growing cooperation between Turkey and Russia is leaning toward cordial collaboration at least as relates to developments in the Middle East. Further complicating the problem is that ties between Athens and Moscow have been going through an increasingly frosty period in the wake of conservative premier Costas Karamanlis’ term in power.

In the past, the active involvement of the US in issues relating to the Middle East had effectively secured stability in the region. However, these days, there is a sense that Washington is gradually disengaging from the region, irrespective of whether (and when) such a thing would ever actually happen. All these things create a feeling of a shifting landscape in which Greece is seeking a point of stability.

The government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is seeking support in the European Union, the US and in regional countries, each of which has its own different goals.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose initiative it was to convene the Berlin conference on Libya on Sunday, undertook every possible action to bring a halt to hostilities in Libya and to avert a new unchecked wave of migrants and refugees toward Europe in general and her country in particular. Italy has similar goals.

The aim of the US is to break the embrace between Ankara and Moscow and keep Turkey within the Euro-Atlantic system. The goal of the UK, meanwhile, following its exit from the European Union, is to boost its ties with Ankara to the greatest possible extent beyond the restrictive framework of European policy. Finally, still in dispute with Turkey, French President Emmanuel Macron is focused on increasing his country’s clout both within the EU and in the Eastern Mediterranean, even though similar French efforts in Libya and Syria failed miserably.

Mitsotakis is waging the ultimate battle to annul the memorandum signed between Libya and Turkey which illegally delineates maritime borders between the two countries. However, there are many players in this game, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the very eve of the Berlin summit, announced that this year will see the launch of drilling for hydrocarbons within the regions agreed with Tripoli, which include areas belonging to Greece’s exclusive economic zone. And it is certain that he will proceed. With the course that the crisis has taken, any kind of mediation in the Greek-Turkish dispute will embroil forces with their own interests, bringing unforeseeable consequences. After so many decades, our problems with Turkey have festered.