OPINION

Waiting for talks with Turkey to start

waiting-for-talks-with-turkey-to-start

We are not doing well with the coronavirus and things are not looking good, unfortunately. The economy is suffering as a consequence of the situation and the prospects of an improvement are up in the air – regardless of forecasts in the draft budget – but it is hoped that things will get back on an even keel soon. However, Greece faces another problem – its neighbor Turkey – that will be much harder to deal with if the other side does not want to reach a solution.

The European Union summit earlier this month came to certain conclusions and since then we have been living in anticipation of the resumption of exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey on the sole subject of settling differences concerning maritime zones. This is Greece’s key term and it has been accepted by the Europeans, but not by Ankara. What observations can we make from this?

Turkey is constantly expressing its irritation via comments by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu but mainly by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the EU summit’s conclusions. It is also dragging its heels over the resumption of exploratory talks, while Erdogan’s partner and leader of the extreme nationalists (the Grey Wolves) Devlet Bahceli continues to make threats against Greece.

Ankara, meanwhile, may have withdrawn the Yavuz survey ship from its operations in Cyprus’ continental shelf, but it made a fuss about opening the Varosha beach area in Famagusta, in violation of United Nations decisions. The obvious reason for the move was that it was done ahead of the elections in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus and aimed at bolstering the popularity of Erdogan’s preferred candidate, the right-wing Ersin Tatar, against the moderate Mustafa Akinci, who has not been helped by Nicosia either. By doing so, however, Turkey is also demonstrating its desire to keep the occupation firmly established.

Then we have Erdogan’s meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, where the NATO secretary-general is sure to have said – at Washington’s behest – that the purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia was unacceptable to the alliance. The very next day after that meeting, Turkey transported a part the system to Sinop on the Black Sea for testing, either as a show of independence or to signal that it is turning the system against its supplier, Russia.

Turkey also obviously encouraged its “brother” Azerbaijan to attack the Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh, thus creating a new pocket of unrest in the Caucasus. Was this part of Turkey’s constant animosity with Armenia, a sideswipe at Russia, an effort to drive a wedge between the United States, France and Russia (all with sizable Armenian communities) that were supposed to be overseeing the ceasefire? Or was it simply to demonstrate that Turkey has the ability to control developments in the region? Whatever the reason, Azerbaijan did not fail to accuse Greece of interference.

Last but not least, Erdogan again spoke on the telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but he also lashed out verbally at France, Israel and Syria – each for different reasons.

There may be no easy conclusions to be drawn from all these developments, but there is no doubt that they are connected.