Turkish inconsistency

Renewed violations of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets yesterday, despite formal complaints lodged by the Greek government, have prompted deep concern over Ankara’s motives. Despite the European Commission’s green light for the start of EU talks with Turkey and pledges of further democratization made by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara has resumed its familiar policy of provocation, with repeated violations of international regulations. Last Tuesday, Greek radar systems reported 37 violations of Greek air space while Turkish coast guard patrol boats were spotted off the Imia islets. Turkey’s tactics are all the more controversial in light of Ankara’s appeal for Greek help with its EU bid. Notably, Athens has offered full support. During the tenure of Costas Simitis, Greece followed a steady policy of good-will gestures that was then taken up by the conservative administration of Costas Karamanlis. And Ankara has responded by calling for cooperation, support and a deal for mutual arms reduction, on the one hand, and, on the other, by looking to cultivate tension. Without doubt, Turkey’s switch – or rather its decision to swing between diplomatic niceties and air space violations – is not due to some tough military men who pull the strings of the government in Ankara. To be sure, the military does yield influence over Turkey’s domestic political scene and politicians are often at loggerheads with the military, but Turkish foreign policy has always unfolded on the basis of a consistent, unified plan – a plan that is also respected by the military. The tendency of Turkish politicians to blame provocations on the hawks within the military is just a pretext. Erdogan’s government is strong enough to keep a rein on the Turkish air force. Otherwise, there would be no point in expecting his party to enforce the democratization reforms demanded by the EU. Ankara must realize that its two-faced, «spoiled» attitude must stop. Athens’s aggravation is reflected in the fact that Foreign Ministry officials and the government did not distinguish between the political and the military elite in their criticism of the latest incidents (unlike Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis). Ankara must realize that its deeds must be consistent with its words. Good intentions and cooperation are not reinforced by social gatherings but through respect for international law. December is drawing close and Turkey’s behavior of late has been hardly «European.»