Untimely visit

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul is expected to visit Athens on December 7-8 after an invitation by his Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis. However, it’s hard to see the point of the visit. Bakoyannis obviously deems it would be wise to disengage progress in Greek-Turkish ties from the crisis in Ankara’s relations with the EU, caused by its failure to meet its commitments to EU member Cyprus. The meeting may well not turn out as expected. Over the past few months, Greece has repeatedly affirmed its support of Turkey’s EU ambitions. Yet another pledge is simply not necessary now. Moreover, no one really expects Gul to review Turkey’s policy just three days before the expiration of a Finnish ultimatum urging Ankara to open its ports and airports. Gul will once again voice the intransigent positions of his government on the Cyprus issue and the Patriarchate. He will repeat Ankara’s positions on the Muslim minority in western Thrace. His comments will naturally arouse the Greek public and spark a reaction from the opposition. The government will as a result be thrown into confusion and the climate of Greek-Turkish relations will not improve. High-level contacts between Greek and Turkish government officials have long ceased to provide any breakthroughs, as the chasm separating the two countries has proved too wide to bridge. Any progress is limited to the military level, including ongoing talks on the de-escalation of tensions. Meetings scheduled to better the climate may only make things worse. Sure, Gul could also visit Athens only for public relations purposes. But that could just as well happen after the EU summit.

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