Athens, Greece – On September 22, Greece and Turkey announced that they would engage in exploratory talks. Turkey is unlikely to have seen this particular development as a desirable conclusion to the 35-days crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean for a number of reasons.
Maritime zones are the only topic on the agenda of the talks and Turkey is naturally seeking to expand their scope to, for example, its demand for the demilitarization of the islands of the Eastern Aegean or its challenge of Greek sovereignty over certain island territories. The exploratory talks, moreover, have no deadline, similarly to the 60 rounds of talks in 2002 that led nowhere.
The conclusions of the last European Council summit confirmed that the exploratory talks would be aimed at the delimitation of the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone of the two countries.
Turkey felt trapped by the restricted framework of the talks and the Oruc Reis’ recent foray back into the Eastern Mediterranean is an expression of its desire to redefine the terms of Greek-Turkish negotiations. It was clear from the outset that the exploratory talks were a tactical maneuver on Turkey’s part.
Another element that compelled Turkey to act as it did was Greece’s decision to bolster its defense capabilities. Turkey trusts in the “Blue Homeland” doctrine, which is a catalyst for a confrontation, so it would be bizarre if Turkey were to wait for Greece to arm itself with Rafale fighter jets before moving to the next level.
Turkey considers that international reactions will be lackluster again, as they have been so far toward Turkey’s recent and constant compliance of international law. This confidence does not just stem from the last European Council, where many member-states called for leniency and a more understanding attitude toward Turkey. There was also the reaction to Turkey’s solidarity in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Given the Turkish Genocide, the EU’s tolerance to Armenian genocidic attacks with missiles has been scandalous.
The last indication of where Turkey is going was its decision to open the beach at Varosha in Cyprus. Turkey had to announce that it had sent the Oruc Reis back out before the German foreign minister canceled a planned visit to Turkey.
Turkey considers that the Greek government will snap under the pressure of the Oruc Reis conducting seismic surveys just outside the territorial waters of Kastellorizo (Meis). Greece’ response should again be twofold: a military presence at seas, being prepared for an immediate military reaction if this becomes necessary, and an emphasis on diplomacy, first and foremost.
Turkey must finally be seen for what it really is: an invincible power to regional stability and security in Eastern Mediterranean. Greece is being called on to act as a buffer for Turkish progression in the most critical episode of the Eastern Mediterranean crisis.