New window of opportunity? It will depend on the governments that emerge in the elections in both countries, if they will accept this initiative.
Just a few months ago, there were fears in Western capitals – and in Athens – of a military escalation between Greece and Turkey ahead of the Turkish elections. These concerns have been fueled by the Turkish President’s endless provocations towards Greece and the almost daily violations of Greek sovereignty in the airspace above the Aegean Sea. Erdogan’s “policy of provocations”, as one German diplomat described it, is now a thing of the past. We are witnessing a “turning point” in Greek-Turkish relations. More than any other politician in Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias verbalizes climate change when he repeatedly calls his Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu “my friend Mevlut” and refers to the “good climate” between the two countries . Delphi Economic Forum.
“window of opportunity”
The conference in this mythical place, often referred to as the “Davos of the Mediterranean”, has become an important informal international summit, where the main challenges of our time are discussed and – as in the case of Greek-Turkish relations – new developments are announced. Although – it could not be done otherwise – the question of Ukraine dominated the agenda, the statements and allusions heard about the Greco-Turkish language in Delphi are, in my opinion, even more important for Greek politics.
The message in a nutshell: After the elections in Turkey and Greece, there will be a new internationally coordinated effort to resolve the differences between the two countries. While last year there was talk of a risk of escalation, now the best Western diplomats have coordinated for a “window of opportunity”. The United States and Germany want to play a central role in the new Western initiative.
The division of labor between Berlin and Washington already became visible when, last December, the Germans brought top diplomats from both countries to the negotiating table in Brussels after months of no direct Greek-Turkish communication. Berlin’s secret diplomacy laid the foundation for the so-called “earthquake diplomacy” launched immediately after the natural disaster in Turkey in early February.
Meanwhile, high-level politicians on both sides of the Aegean say that a good climate is a prerequisite for starting a new political process. “We will see a very serious effort to resolve the issues after the elections,” US Ambassador to Athens Georges Tsounis said with rare clarity in Delphi. Jens Pletner’s statements point in the same direction. The adviser to the German Chancellor told Delphi that the elections in both countries “offer a good opportunity for a positive impetus for stability in the region”.
Greek-Turkish tensions are a “poison” for NATO
As if they had reached an agreement, the senior German and American diplomats added that the offer of mediation is of course only valid if it is accepted by the governments of Athens and Ankara. The American ambassador went further by stressing that there is a “willingness to compromise” on both sides. “Disputes can be resolved,” Tsounis said, because after all “it’s not about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.” He then uttered a phrase that the Greek government would rather not hear: “Neither side (i.e. neither the Greeks nor the Turks) has a monopoly on what is right and what is wrong. .” Western diplomats admit they have not done enough in the past to promote a solution to the Greek-Turkish disputes. The war in Ukraine has created a new situation and further explains the urgency of the issue.
The strategic importance of Greece and Turkey has increased sharply since February 2022. The tension, even an open conflict, on NATO’s southeastern flank is poison for the Western alliance in its fight against Russia. Washington and Berlin are determined to “neutralize” this poison. The coming months will prove whether or not the governments emerging from the elections in Athens and Ankara will accept the allies’ offer of mediation.
*Dr Ronald Mainardus is a policy analyst and commentator and Senior Researcher at ELIAMEP. In the mid-1990s, he was the Greek editorial director of Deutsche Welle.
Source: Deutsche Welle