Before we divide ourselves into “traitors” and “patriots” over whether we should resort to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to resolve issues with Turkey and many other matters, it would be a good idea to make sure we know what we are talking about. Ignorance is a dangerous thing, especially when it is found in so-called experts or just plain old know-it-alls.
We have heard and read, for example, that a Turkish research vessel had entered and exited Greek territorial waters. However, the vessel was more than 150 miles south of Kastellorizo. Greek territorial waters stretch to 6 miles. We also heard that the Greek exclusive economic zone had been violated. However, the country’s EEZ has not yet been delineated. And finally, we read in an official statement that the Oruc Reis vessel had left the Athens Flight Information Region, as if it were an aircraft.
The information gap when it comes to Greek-Turkish relations is striking. And it’s truly impressive just how easily cliches and false stereotypes are regurgitated on radios, websites and television. It is also interesting to see the mythology that develops and affects the collective subconscious.
A classic example is the 1987 Aegean crisis and how the then prime minister Andreas Papandreou handled it. The handling was really impressive following the “misunderstanding” that triggered the crisis – from Papandreou’s reactions to the trip of the then foreign minister Karolos Papoulias to Sofia.
But we are forgetting two things: that Papandreou met with his then Turkish counterpart Turgut Ozal and shelved the Cyprus issue, leaving it out of the joint communique that was issued after their talks – a move for which he was criticized.
We are also forgetting that there was an unofficial agreement that neither of the two countries would launch exploratory oil drilling outside of its territorial waters, which resulted in Turkey requesting to conduct research in Thessaloniki’s Thermaic Gulf, because its opening is more than 6 miles wide.
Basic knowledge and an objective understanding of history are necessary tools at a time of tension with Turkey – but they are also very hard to come by.