An odd equilibrium

Ankara has once again been assiduously summing up its policy on the Aegean and Cyprus disputes. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and General Hilmi Ozkok have all been in good voice lately, outlining their country’s foreign policy guidelines. The bad news coming from the Turkish government was, in fact, old news. The interesting part, of course, is that Ankara is once again pushing its «grey zones» policy in the Aegean (while sticking to its refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus) without feeling any pressure from the October 3 date when membership negotiations are due to begin. The message can be heard loud and clear: Ankara’s EU ambitions are not tied to any Turkish concessions over the Aegean or Cyprus. Greece’s stand is also clear: Athens will not allow Turkish provocations to influence its strategic decision to back its neighbor’s European prospects. The Greek political elite views Turkey’s aggression as a necessary evil, notwithstanding the price tag that this attitude brings with it. Greece’s conservative government is, in fact, continuing the previous policy of the Costas Simitis-led governments, believing it is worth putting up with Ankara’s conduct for the sake of the long-term benefits that will flow from Turkey’s course toward the EU. It’s the same old strategy that was hammered out in the spring of 1996 by the Socialist government. Accordingly, Turkey has no reason to back down on its Aegean claims. Nor do our EU peers have any reason to upset this odd equilibrium between the two countries. Besides, European governments never really saw Turkey’s European course in conjunction with progress in Greece’s bilateral ties with Turkey.

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