Why Erdogan is hesitating

The way things have worked out, this could be an ideal time for rapprochement between Athens and Ankara. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been given a second mandate, face no real opposition and enjoy a close personal relationship. Seasoned observers say that such a combination has not been seen since the 1980s, when Andreas Papandreou and Turgut Ozal tried to reach an historical compromise in Davos. It is furthermore certain that Karamanlis would like to go down in history as the man who achieved an agreement on the dispute over territorial waters. Erdogan does not appear prepared to speed up talks and contribute toward an agreement. The Turkish premier does recognize Karamanlis as a person he can talk to and Karamanlis has supported him in difficult times. Obviously Erdogan has chosen not to make any important moves on Greek-Turkish relations. The question is why? Firstly, because his priorities lie in northern Iraq and the Kurdish crisis. This is Turkey’s biggest national security concern and it may even pose a threat to Erdogan’s political future. Erdogan’s advisers may even cite Cyprus as another reason for his hesitation. He took a mighty risk when he pulled the rug out from under the feet of Rauf Denktash and supported the Annan Plan because it was the first time a Turkish premier had made the leap to find a solution. The third reason why Erdogan is in no rush is that he is no longer under pressure by the EU entry process – his country’s political elite is already beginning to view accession as a faraway likelihood. What is certain is that Greek-Turkish relations are at a standstill for the time being, with no impressive results. So we will just have to go back to the tried-and-tested dogma of keeping a safe distance from one another.