End of a myth

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s interview with Kathimerini, published in today’s English Edition, threw cold water on local politicians who still believe Ankara follows a two-tier policy on Greece. In one corner, the theory goes, lurks the military establishment that wants to sustain tension in bilateral relations, while in the other stands the Turkish political class which seeks to promote rapprochement and cooperation between the two nations. In a subtle and cautious yet also clear and assertive formulation, the Turkish prime minister said that the policy of violating Greece’s air space is not the brainchild of some hot-headed military generals who act without the consent of the political elite, but official policy. Indeed, on top of Erdogan’s baseless arguments with which he tried to accuse Athens of violating international law, the Turkish leader seems to be fully embracing the policy of intrusions and portraying them as official Turkish policy – which is what they are. Erdogan’s comments dashed the delusions of those who insist on blaming the tense encounters over the Aegean on the military establishment of the neighboring state. They also confirmed that Ankara has a single policy on this issue that is backed by the military and the political establishments alike. The opposite view – popular even among senior Greek officials – which blames all violations of our national air space and territorial waters on the military elite (aside from the recent provocations, it was interesting to see how hastily the Greek deputy foreign minister reacted during the series of Turkish violations last October) is no longer tenable. Greece’s political leadership must realize that it can no longer afford to justify Turkish provocations as the work of a bunch of «bad generals.» Inconsistent as it may seem with Ankara’s efforts to strengthen its bilateral ties with Athens and Greece’s support for Turkey’s EU ambitions, these provocations are an integral part of our neighbor’s official policy. Greece’s foreign-policy makers cannot turn a blind eye to or downplay the persistent provocations. They must instead hammer out a political plan to tackle them – first by lodging complaints with international organizations. So long as Greece reacts in a conciliatory fashion, Turkish violations will intensify. That was proved during Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis’s recent visit to Ankara. It was formalized in Erdogan’s interview with Kathimerini.

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