OPINION

Turkish provocations

The view that the near future will most probably see a major Turkish provocation to prevent Cyprus’s EU accession is not a fabrication by Greece’s defense minister. It has repeatedly been heard from various mouths and it has been discussed by the General Staff and among senior government cadres. Such concerns are justified as Ankara has often warned of a sharp response should Cyprus enter the Union. It’s clear that Yiannos Papantoniou’s leadership of the Defense Ministry has resulted in a different discourse on national issues. Any attempt to trace his motives and intentions is meaningless. What is important is that his conclusions and positions are pragmatic. Papantoniou has not sought to abandon the policy of rapprochement. He simply does not share the overoptimistic expectations of Foreign Minister George Papandreou. By virtue of his role, Papantoniou has to be more cautious and prepared for a worst-case scenario. Prime Minister Costas Simitis has himself often aired similar concerns in public. Greece has always tried to cultivate a climate of detente in bilateral relations with Turkey but, particularly during this crucial period, it has every reason not to yield to deliberate tension caused by Ankara. Any Turkish provocations that set no negative precedents can be tackled via diplomatic means. The decision of the breakaway state in northern Cyprus to extend its territorial waters to 12 miles is devoid of political significance as the statelet has no territorial waters. Greece has no reason to get involved in confrontations that could result in military incidents. But it has to make clear that should its territorial integrity be threatened, it will defend it at any cost. Ankara must realize that you can’t play with fire – hence it’s best for both countries to stay away from it.