Ankara’s great temptation

It is Ankara’s invariable tactic on the eve of every crucial negotiation to increase tension in bilateral relations in order to bring Greece under pressure and thereby extract the greatest possible compromises. It is no surprise, then, that the recent period has brought increasing signs that Turkey’s intention is to create a manageable degree of tension. Prime Minister Costas Simitis will soon hold talks with the US political leadership. Despite his intention to avoid bringing Greek-Turkish disputes to the forefront, everything seems to suggest that Washington will take advantage of the opportunity and put pressure on Greece to accept unfavorable settlements. It is no coincidence that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit is expected in Washington immediately after Simitis, and his visit will coincide with the beginning of the crucial negotiations between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. In fact, the post-Kemal regime deems that the recent period of niceties should be brought to a close, and be followed by political bargaining over reviewing the status of the Aegean Sea. Ecevit has not kept secret his anxiety. Ankara is clearly returning to the policy of coercive diplomacy, a constitutive element of which is the cultivation of tension. The increasing frequency of airspace violations is a clear indication of this trend. As regards the NOTAMs (notices to airmen) that Turkey released last October on the control of air corridors, this was merely a continuation of charges included in the White Paper that Athens is abusing its responsibility assigned to it by the International Civil Aviation Organization on the control of air traffic over the Aegean Sea. Ankara’s greatest temptation, however, is to push things to their extremes so as to intimidate Europe and thereby prevent Cyprus’s EU accession. The Greek government, evaluating the abstract threats which have occasionally been leveled by Turkey, is trying to shape conditions in order to hinder such a prospect. In this context, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou is trying to preserve a tension-free climate and maintain the momentum of bilateral diplomatic rapprochement. In order to achieve this, however, Papandreou is increasingly being forced to downgrade or bypass Turkish provocations, often at the expense of Greece’s national interests. Until yesterday, Greece had notified neither the ICAO nor Eurocontrol that Turkey had backed out of the agreement, despite the fact that the issue had been discussed by a committee made up of members of the ministries of defense and foreign affairs and the civil aviation authorities.

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