Caution with an uneasy neighbor

Once again, the political situation in Turkey has led to unexpected implications. Consider recent reports that Turkish police uncovered a plot to assassinate the Islamic-leaning Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other high-ranking officials in the government of the Justice and Development party. This is only the latest episode in the uneasy coexistence between the Islamists who won a majority in the Turkish Parliament and the forces who wish to safeguard the tradition of the secular state. It is hard to predict how long this historical compromise is going to last or what the outcome of this peculiar tug of war will be. A lot will be decided after Turkey’s presidential election in November. The secular forces are pushing for early elections in the hope that Erdogan’s party will find itself without the necessary parliamentary majority to appoint someone from its own ranks as president. This means that tension in Turkey should intensify all the way to the November vote, though it won’t necessarily end then. It also means that Turkey will grow more and more unstable. Historical experience shows that when Turkey’s political system is in crisis, the shock waves are felt as far as Greece and Cyprus. Turkey exports its internal crises, making things more complex for those who formulate Greece’s foreign policy. The Greek administration must keep a close eye on Turkey’s domestic developments. Under normal conditions there is need for reflection and good planning at all levels. However, now it is time for even greater attention and vigilance. We must be spare with our words at home and take cautious steps abroad. Unfortunately, Greece sits next to a difficult and often dangerous neighbor who likes to transmute its problems into aggression. Greece should brace for an unusually feisty Turkey, at least until November.

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