A phobic syndrome
In a bid to justify the unjustifiable, Petros Molyviatis made a highly revealing statement: «Thanks to our handling of affairs,» the foreign minister said, «we managed to ease tension over an incident that could have led to a crisis.» But the Imia face-off and the air space violations were not incidental, but premeditated provocations that served Ankara’s diplomatic objectives. Accordingly, Greece’s reaction was an anxious effort to defuse the crisis, by backing down once again. Ankara caused trouble knowing that Athens would, once again, react under the influence of its phobic syndrome. It is the same syndrome that makes Greece’s political class cling to the convenient «good-government, bad-military» doctrine regarding Turkey. Turkey did more than just remind us of its expansionist claims; it actually tested the conservative government’s political reflexes. The conclusions must have pleased Ankara. This is standard Turkish policy – as is the habit of marring bilateral summits with mass air space violations. But this time Ankara overstepped the mark, attempting a clear move to embarrass Greece. While Turkish fighter jets were intruding upon Greek air space, Molyviatis was talking about confidence building measures. Things could have been very different: Molyviatis needn’t have terminated his visit, but he should have raised the issue in public. Had the Turkish government admitted giving the green light to the violations, the talks would have taken on a whole new meaning. If not, its status as interlocutor would have been under question. Such a move would have made a good political statement and sent Ankara a strong message. Foreign ministers are meant to defend national interests. But Molyviatis is not exclusively to blame, as his actions carried the prime minister’s approval.