A darkening sky over the Aegean

Last week, we barely avoided a serious crisis over the Aegean after a stint of jousting between fighter jets cost a Greek air force pilot his life. The «accident» happened while the Greek jet had been intercepting an armed Turkish plane that had been carrying out a spying exercise. The incident highlighted some truths – namely that Turkey is continuing its intense military activity over the Aegean irrespective of promises to be a «good neighbor.» Also Turkey’s behavior has destroyed the Greek government’s hopes that Ankara will soften its policy toward Greece in view of its bid to join the European Union. The collision and the subsequent reactions of the Greek government emphasize how disadvantaged Greece’s stance is vis-a-vis Turkey’s demands in the Aegean. Indeed, Greece appears to be caught in a firm stranglehold which it cannot escape without serious injury. Athens is now faced with solving its critical dispute with Turkey in the Aegean with several disadvantages: Firstly, it has more or less given up its right to extend its territorial waters; secondly, it has virtually accepted Turkey’s reservations regarding the continental shelf; thirdly, it has systematically avoided asking Ankara to revoke its threat of war in the event of Greece extending its waters. Moreover, Greece has publicly reiterated its commitment and support for Turkey’s EU ambitions so persistently over the past six years that it now has very little room for diplomatic maneuver. Despite government officials’ assurances about alleged progress with Greek-Turkish problems, the reality of the situation has led Greece to what appears to be a political deadlock.