Red lines and fair solutions in Greece-Turkey talks
Greece and Turkey will resume exploratory talks in a few days. Ankara has made it very clear that the agenda must include the demilitarisation of certain Greek islands as well as sovereignty over certain islands and rocky formations. I do not think that Ankara will leave much space for so-called creative ambiguity, as certain European diplomats dealing with the issue (without necessarily understanding it in depth) would like to see.
Turkey has been raising the issue of demilitarisation since 1975. Greece has been turning down the claim, invoking the right to defend itself. The question of grey zones, on the other hand, has never been included in exploratory talks. In any case, these two issues are where Greece draws its red lines. If Turkey enters the talks with the intention of violating these red lines, the talks will not get very far.
What will happen then? Turkey will first of all play the blame game, pointing the finger at Greece for the talks’ failure. Any third party with little to no knowledge of the background and the complexity of the issues will probably say, “let them reach a middle-ground compromise so we can move on.”
But this would be a mistake, for it would mean tolerating a challenge against the national sovereignty of a European Union state. And to do so would be to open the bags of Aeolus. This is why Greece must undertake a technocratic, persuasive campaign across Europe and the United States. Turkey has methodically engaged think tanks and forums to this end. We are lagging behind in this respect.
Meanwhile, apart from the blame game, there is also the power game. Turkey’s seismic survey vessel Oruç Reis is not docked at some port for maintenance work. Rather, it is sailing near the Greek island of Kastellorizo and, as Ankara often points out, it is ready for more exploration activity. The same goes for the vessels that will, if necessary, drill for hydrocarbons in the areas claimed by Turkey.
Should Turkey respect Greece’s red lines, then the two sides could come up with fair and reasonable solutions to their main difference. That would be a very good development for everyone. Failure to do so would mean a long period of instability and risk.
(This column was first published in the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)