On the verge of compromise

When in 1996 Ankara bared its teeth to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, by using the Imia islets to raise the issue of «gray zones» in the Aegean, the then-new prime minister put his trust in the theory that Greek-Turkish relations could enter a new age if Greece favored Turkey’s «European course» and took a step-by-step approach to improving bilateral relations. This approach was welcomed by our European partners and the Americans, convincing Simitis he had done the right thing. Part of the rationale of this view was the observation that there were reformist forces in Turkey, particularly in economic circles, who wanted to hitch Turkey to the European wagon. We all know what has happened since then. Today, although there is still talk about change in Turkey, the prevailing view is still that of the political and military establishment. The policy that led to the events of 1974 in Cyprus is still in place. As long as Greece persists with its policy of moderation, it will be under pressure from Ankara, which is persisting with its claims in the Aegean and doing what it can to maintain the military fait accompli in Cyprus. Putting its faith in support from the US, Ankara has not only not changed its strategy in the face of the moderation of Greece’s leaders, but at every turn demands that Athens «adjust» to its demands in the Aegean and Cyprus. In the new order being established in the region, Turkey is sure that it already finds itself in a very good position. Greece’s isolation in the European Union over the EU defense force has only confirmed that feeling. Now finding himself in a very difficult position, Simitis is now forced to seek answers to a number of problems while avoiding the most painful compromises.