Time will tell

The government has offered assurances to the New Democracy main opposition party and the Greek public that the only issue to be discussed during the upcoming phase of Greek-Turkish dialogue is the legal dispute regarding the delimitation of the Aegean Sea’s continental shelf. This means that Greece will insist on a position that Greek prime ministers have endorsed since the 1970s as the premise of Greek-Turkish dialogue. Ankara has so far refused to confine its policy on the Aegean Sea dispute to the legal issue of the continental shelf (an issue which, of course, also has an undeniable political dimension), insisting on the need for a wide-ranging dialogue on a series of issues. Foreign Minister George Papandreou has now brought back the issue of a dialogue on the continental shelf, prompted by the government’s opinion that the Helsinki summit decisions open the door for a different evolution in the Greek-Turkish talks. Papandreou believes that the framework of the Helsinki decisions does not force Greece to enter into a comprehensive political dialogue with Turkey. The impending talks between Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem will reveal whether this assumption is indeed grounded. Furthermore, the talks will reveal the genuine foundation of the continental shelf dialogue and, therefore, also Ankara’s position on what it considers to be the commitments stemming from Article Four of the document hammered out by the 15 EU member states at the Helsinki summit. If the two foreign ministers have done their diplomatic homework in preparation for the coming talks, one may assume that they have both included some new evidence with which to make their cases. If this is so, the dialogue is expected to be an extremely interesting one. If, however, the two sides have not altered their positions, but instead have both «interpreted» the Helsinki documents in different ways, then the exploratory talks between Papandreou and Cem will be short-lived. A potential deadlock would be followed by a period of great tension in Greek-Turkish relations, which would inevitably have a negative effect on talks on the Cyprus problem. Sasson, though, was adamant while defending Israel’s policy of assassinating suspected Palestinian militants and suicide bombers, saying that it is a «preventive activity» and that it had significantly reduced the attacks in Israel.

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