Sending ambiguous messages to Ankara

The acute tension that Turkey has created in the Aegean over the past two weeks, along with the comments made by former president Costis Stephanopoulos following last week’s fatal jet collision, have not only highlighted the need for Athens to make some critical decisions regarding its strategy for Greek-Turkish relations. These developments have also illuminated certain discrepancies in Greek tactics which must be rectified without delay. In the critical few days which followed the jet collision, Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis appeared to play down the incident and appease Ankara. Conversely, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and President Karolos Papoulias used harsh words against Ankara, reminding Turkey’s political and military leadership that its EU-oriented course cannot continue smoothly when it systematically violates the principles of good-neighborly relations. Meanwhile, Bakoyannis and Meimarakis expressed diverging stances in reaction to Stephanopoulos’s proposal for all bilateral problems to be forwarded to the international court at The Hague. Bakoyannis appeared to back such a prospect while Meimarakis seemed to reject it. But regardless of whether the government is considering a reformulation of its strategy in Greek-Turkish relations, the expression of divergent opinions is not a good thing. In view of the instability currently shaking Turkey and an apparent resurgence in hostility from Ankara, «messages» being sent from Athens to the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey’s military must be absolutely clear and express a united government stance if dangerous misunderstandings are to be avoided.

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