Fresh talks with Ankara

Following an exchange of correspondence, Prime Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan seem poised to launch a new round of talks. Without a doubt, dialogue is useful but the prevailing conditions right now may prove to be counterproductive. For one thing, the conflict between the Islamist government and the military in Turkey is escalating quite sharply and Athens, in turn, is trying to deal with the country’s worst financial crisis since the end of World War II. Under these circumstances, it is hard to imagine how the two leaders will be able to put their domestic concerns aside. The fact is that the initiative to launch talks belongs to Erdogan and Papandreou had to reciprocate. It is also a fact that, in their letters, at least those that were made public, neither side had anything new to add to their standard positions on certain matters. The only exception was Papandreou’s proposal of setting a time line for exploratory talks on the issue of the continental shelf, after which both countries would agree to turn the matter over to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The previous PASOK administration of Costas Simitis also tried to push for a settlement at The Hague, but the dynamic was different, as Ankara appeared much more eager than it does today to begin entry talks with the European Union. Sure, Ankara has not given up its European aspirations, but its priorities have shifted considerably nonetheless. Furthermore, the continental shelf is not the only difference as far as Turkey is concerned between the two countries, in contrast to what Athens believes. With the EU draw weakening for Ankara and Greek-Turkish relations enjoying a state of calm, talks could be about essentials. But as neither country appears determined to solve its differences with the other, any talks would be about making a good impression and, at least on this front, both countries could benefit equally.

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