Instability in Turkey

The visit of the Greek prime minister to China eventually took place, after having been postponed twice. Now, except for the internal political problem that emerged because of Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos’s interview with Kathimerini, Costas Simitis and his government will have to focus on the substantial problems that stem from the political crisis currently plaguing Turkey. The question is not who will succeed Turkey’s ailing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, whether the government coalition will survive, or whether nationalist party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli will choose to stay or withdraw from it because of his disagreement. The question is, rather, in what ways can political instability affect the behavior of the military elite? And what will be the repercussions of these tribulations on Ankara’s European orientation and for major issues such as the Cyprus dispute and Ankara’s military activity in the Aegean Sea? The American administration is conveying the impression that issues concerning the basic aspects of the Cyprus problem may have been resolved by the end of June. The remarks made by Turkish and Greek officials, however, do not seem to verify these optimistic forecasts. The confusion deepens as nationalist leaders such as Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, a few weeks ago, expressed the view that Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash should display a more flexible stance on the Cyprus issue. All Turkish politicians have expressed many, and often conflicting, views in public but the most essential issue concerns the final position of the military regime. In contrast to the intentional vagueness over the Cyprus issue, there has been a precipitous rise in Turkey’s military activity over the Aegean Sea, as the violations of Greece’s airspace and the infringements of Athens’s Flight Information Region (FIR) have nearly doubled in comparison with the previous months. And while these developments are taking place at the practical level, the Greek and Turkish delegations met once again in a very positive atmosphere for procedural talks regarding the problems caused by Ankara’s revisionist policy on the Aegean Sea. Common sense can neither combine these contradictory pieces of information nor understand how it is possible to have an increase of Turkish military activity and a positive climate in talks over the status of the Aegean Sea both at the same time. At this point, however, public attention is focused mainly on the Cyprus issue, and the question posed is whether developments are being effectively monitored or whether international pressure and initiatives are preparing the ground for an unacceptable solution which will finally be accepted using the lure of the island’s accession to the EU as bait. Political elites in some countries have, no doubt, given the EU an almost metaphysical dimension. Some give the impression that Turkey’s regime has entered a similar state of mind. True as this may be, one cannot shape a national strategy without first seeing some clear signs of change. For the time being, what we have is a clear political crisis with candidates struggling for premiership.