Wheels of diplomacy

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis convened the OSCE summit at the Corfu Achilleion Palace, built by Empress Elisabeth of Austria as a retreat from the boredom of court life. «Achilles Triumphant,» a large mural adorning the central staircase, depicts the Homeric hero dragging Hector’s body behind his chariot. The most unconventional aspect of this painting is that while it contains much dynamism, the chariot’s wheels appear to be motionless. This lack of motion was not in evidence at the summit. The meeting of ministers was animated and created a dynamic for European security, with talks between NATO and Russia aiming at the resumption of their military collaboration following the Georgian crisis last August. This encouraging atmosphere was in part created by the fact that US President Barack Obama will shortly be visiting Russia and Washington is eager to create a positive climate. This was certainly a favorable conjuncture, though in no way does it detract from Bakoyannis’s contribution to the meeting’s success. Where we saw the wheels stopping however, was in Bakoyannis’s bilateral talks with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, both in Ankara’s refusal to discuss the re-entry of illegal migrants and in its stance over the Turkish air force’s provocative activity in the Aegean. Some have criticized Bakoyannis for jumping into bilateral negotiations just days ahead of her scheduled visit to Ankara without having first laid the necessary diplomatic groundwork, thus giving Davutoglou an opportunity to air Turkey’s intransigent stance on these issues at an official forum. However, Turkey’s stance would have been equally inflexible whatever the preparation. What is completely incomprehensible and dangerous, however, is the insistence of successive Greek administrations on the reopening of the Halki seminary, when it is certain that Ankara will only consent if it secures reciprocity in Thrace. And any agreement reached in this context will be biased in favor of Turkey.