Exploratory talks: Reserved expectations

Exploratory talks: Reserved expectations

In a much-debated development, Greece and Turkey are about to resume exploratory talks following a five-year lull.

This new round will be held amid a tense atmosphere, mostly due to Ankara’s revisionist policy, now driven by the Blue Homeland dogma which is being put forward with unusually aggressive rhetoric.

However, this foreign policy goal by Ankara can form neither the basis, nor any part, of a negotiation between the two sides as it essentially overturns the region’s geostrategic landscape, while challenging Greece’s internationally recognized borders with Turkey, and in the long run potentially with other countries too.

In light of the above, it’s hard to be very optimistic about the prospects of the upcoming exploratory contacts.

Recent weeks may have seen a relative calm as Turkey has refrained from threatening moves like those witnessed during the summer. However, there’s no sign that Turkey is willing to make a radical policy shift.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be on a bridge-building mission with the EU and the US. The Turkish strongman realizes that he cannot threaten or be in conflict with everyone. US sanctions are damaging his country. And he probably sees the January 25 meeting as part of a broader strategy that aims at getting closer to the EU.

In any case, the meeting between Greek and Turkish officials in Istanbul does not mark the beginning of formal talks between the two sides. It is rather just a first contact designed to record the positions and gauge the intentions of each side.

It is a welcome meeting which could, under certain conditions, create a more positive atmosphere and open the way for a rapprochement. Unfortunately, rhetoric across the Aegean – repeated yesterday by Foreign Minster Cavusoglu – so far leaves scant hope for genuine progress.

On the contrary, it shows that Ankara’s objective is not to reach a solution (with the most logical outcome being to refer the issue of maritime zone demarcation to The Hague tribunal) but to play the blame game against Greece.

But such an approach cannot be the starting point of a sincere dialogue between two neighbors. Instead, they should be willing to shed maximalism and threats, and pursue a well-intentioned effort to peacefully coexist in an environment that would prove beneficial to both.

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