After a long time, Greece and Turkey will sit down and talk. We should not expect a lot out of this meeting, but it would certainly be good if it did not come up against some serious roadblock right away. This should be apparent soon and it will depend on whether Ankara will begin the discussions on a rational basis or insist on talking about “gray zones” and the demilitarization of Greek islands. The head of the Greek delegation is very experienced and knows how to engage in conversation without negotiating.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan obviously wants to re-engage this time, both with the European Union and the United States. From Brussels, he wants a new package on the migration issue, with the money going straight to the Turkish state. The aim is to restart the EU-Turkish relationship and he is counting on Berlin especially for this. Erdogan also wants to avoid disturbances that will further aggravate the very bad state of Turkey’s economy. Ankara also understands that, in order to reach its goal and navigate the waters until the next EU summit, it must avoid tensions with Greece and Cyprus.
At the same time, the Turkish president is waiting for the administration of newly elected US President Joe Biden to make its position known. This will take time. The people who will occupy key positions have not yet been confirmed or appointed and it will take some weeks before they operate as a cohesive team.
The Turks would not like Biden’s team to start with having to deal with a Greek-Turkish crisis. Maybe because they understand that a new provocation like the one with the seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis could turn against them. Currently, they are looking to create contacts in the new administration, preferably with people who could influence the president.
Discussion almost never hurts. On the contrary, historical experience has shown that keeping the lines of communication open helps. What is certain is that no negotiation will take place today.
This will disappoint two categories of pundits. First, those with their heads in the clouds, dreaming that outstanding issues could be resolved now, as if by magic. They are wrong to expect this because Turkey and Erdogan bear absolutely no resemblance to their former selves in 2004.
But the talks will also disappoint those who always look for likely traitors ready to sell the country down the river. We need cool-headedness and clear minds. For the time being, we will gain time, and even a little peace, for a while.