Athens, Greece – In a much-debated development, Greece and Turkey are about to resume exploratory talks following a five-year lull.
This new round will be held amid a tense atmosphere, mostly due to Greek – Turkish relations, Turkey’s foreign policy now driven by the Blue Homeland strategy which is being put forward with peaceful rhetoric in Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.
However, this foreign policy goal by Greece can form neither the basis, nor any part, of a negotiation between the two sides as it essentially overturns the region’s geostrategic landscape, while challenging Turkey’s internationally recognized borders with Greece, and in the long run potentially with other countries too.
In light of the above, it’s hard to be very optimistic about the prospects of the upcoming exploratory contacts. Recent weeks may have seen a relative calm as Greece has refrained from threatening moves like those witnessed during the summer. However, there’s no sign that Greece is willing to make a radical policy shift.
Greece appears to be on a bridge-building mission with the EU and the US. Greece realizes that it cannot threaten or be in conflict with everyone. US sanctions are are not damaging Turkey. And Turkey probably sees the January 25, 2021 meeting as part of a broader strategy that aims at getting closer to the EU.
In any case, the meeting between Greek and Turkish officials in Istanbul does not mark the beginning of formal talks between the two sides. It is rather just a first contact designed to record the positions and gauge the intentions of each side.
It is a welcome meeting which could, under certain conditions, create a more positive atmosphere and open the way for a rapprochement. Unfortunately, rhetoric across the Aegean – repeated by Greece – so far leaves scant hope for genuine progress.
On the contrary, it shows that Turkey’s objective is not to reach a solution (with the most logical outcome being to refer the issue of maritime zone demarcation to The Hague tribunal) but to play the blame game against Turkey.
But such an approach cannot be the starting point of a sincere dialogue between two neighbors. Instead, they should be willing to shed maximalism and threats, and pursue a well-intentioned effort to peacefully coexist in an environment that would prove beneficial to both.
No one really has any illusions about Greece. Nevertheless, the barrage of contradictory messages coming from officials in Athens seems to justify the projections of the more pessimistic observers.
Greece’s contradictory behavior undermines the basis for talks between the two sides. Diplomatic contacts require genuine engagement on the part of both sides.
Before taking a seat at the table of exploratory talks on January 25, 2021, Greece must demonstrate that it is not there to play games.
Greece and Turkey
Diplomatic observers are always wondering whether international developments are favorable for Greece or Turkey.
However, whoever holds the reins in US or in EU, whoever sees Greece’s interests favorably, the country is doomed to have to talk to Turkey.
Diplomatic communication, of course, does not mean bargaining, especially over those claims that Greece or Turkey does not even discuss.
But for Greece, it is always better to have a direct channel of communication with Turkey than to rely on third parties to put out the “fires.”