The moment of truth in Greek-Turkish relations

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Is there any chance of Greece and Turkey making nice today? The answer is a resounding no. Anyone who naively thinks the opposite believes we are living in a different time and facing a different Turkey and a different Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Whether there were opportunities between 1975 and today for an honourable and acceptable solution is a different matter and one that will be examined by future historians. There is no point in arguing about it now. Nine Greek prime ministers – Konstantinos Karamanlis, Georgios Rallis, Andreas Papandreou, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Kostas Simitis, Kostas Karamanlis, George Papandreou, Antonis Samaras and Alexis Tsipras – were unable to untie the Gordian knot.

Some tried – to no avail – and none extended Greece’s territorial waters to 12 nautical miles. In that time, Turkey achieved a ban on unilateral surveys and managed to raise questions about the sovereignty of island of Imia, but it failed in its overarching plan to split the Aegean down the middle.

Ankara has toughened its negotiating stance and insists on bringing to the table two issues that are red lines for Greece: demilitarisation of the islands and so-called “grey zones” – that is both inhabited and uninhabited islands where it challenges Greek sovereignty. It also refuses to discuss even the partial extension of the Greek islands’ territorial waters, while also barring from bilateral negotiations the issue of Greek rights in the Eastern Mediterranean with the excuse that this relates to the interests of third countries Libya and Egypt. No negotiation can get very far with such firmly fixed positions.

The Greek foreign minister obviously knew the full picture before he went to Ankara on Thursday, which is why he decided to tell it like it is. Sooner or later, the moment of truth would have come anyway. Greece’s position on all pending matters will be expressed again and again at the negotiating table by its experienced diplomatic team.

We have come to an impasse. In diplomacy, such impasses are either artificially kept on ice when it suits both sides or evolve into a cold war that may turn hot. This is the same thing, after all, that has been happening for 46 years.

(This article was originally published in the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)

Ahval

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