An opportunity for explanations

Turkey’s policy on the Aegean Sea dispute is known to all and remains well entrenched regardless of whether Greek-Turkish relations are tense or calm. No ‘episode,’ no ‘Davos summit,’ no ‘European prospects’ of our neighboring country, not even the ‘New World Order’ has prompted the Turkish regime to think that it should perhaps reconsider some of its claims on the Aegean Sea over which it is seeking to expand its control. All of Greece’s efforts since 1987 to convince Ankara that there are valid reasons for trying a different approach to resolving the dispute, and that there are issues that can be discussed from a legal perspective such as the delineation of the continental shelf, have been in vain as Turkey has never dropped its demand for a comprehensive bilateral political discussion. Recent developments on this issue may have put Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s government in a difficult position, but they were certainly of no surprise. A notable element, however, is found in the political stance of the United States on the issue. For the first time, Washington is clearly adopting Turkey’s positions on the question of ‘gray zones’ (on sea borders) in the Aegean Sea and on the issue of Greece’s right to maintain troops on the Dodecanese islands. It is worth noting that the USA is adopting this stance despite the fact that Greek-American relations have been very good throughout Simitis’s rule. Even in the problematic and sometimes tense periods in the bilateral relationship during the 1980s, Washington had always opted for a neutral stance on the Aegean Sea disputes, and even that stance caused dissatisfaction in Athens. What has changed now? Washington has always been in favor of a Greek-Turkish dialogue – former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright repeatedly emphasized that in the past. Does US President George W. Bush’s administration want to see a breakthrough on the issue? Washington and Athens now have a chance to determine what is really going on. «Each one of us must bow his head and think of all those who were lost in this holy place because of an act of unbelievable barbarism, a despicable act of terrorism, a display of inconceivable bestiality,» Simitis said. «Greece supports the just cause of the war against terrorism, because we want a world in which there will be peace, cooperation and the common effort for development.»

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