Analysis: Can Greece correctly assess Türkiye's vision of cooperation? - M5 Dergi
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Analysis: Can Greece correctly assess Türkiye’s vision of cooperation?

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Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis once again ignored Turkish minority in Western Thrace and insistently used term ‘Muslim’ minority, while claiming that Turks have equal rights and are treated equally with Greeks

Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, after the two leaders held one-on-one and delegation meetings. Although the Erdogan-Mitsotakis meeting left many questions unanswered, it was important in terms of giving some clues about the upcoming period.

Positive messages

First of all, on the positive side, the agreement on the establishment of a Joint Business Council between the Foreign Economic Relations Board of the Republic of Türkiye and the Association of Greek Chambers of Commerce showed that the goal of increasing the trade volume between the two countries from around $6 billion to $10 billion in 2023 is possible. In addition, the memorandum of understanding in the field of disaster and emergency management, the agreement on cooperation in the fields of health and medical sciences, and the announcement of strengthened understanding with Greece in the fight against terrorist organizations such as FETO, PKK and DHKP/C showed that there are many issues that the two sides can agree on. The commitment of both sides to explore further areas of cooperation, to maintain regular exchanges of views and to maintain effective channels of communication at various levels, and President Erdogan’s invitation to Mitsotakis to return to Ankara for a follow-up meeting of the High Level Cooperation Council, can be seen as promising developments for the period ahead.

Unspoken issues

On the other hand, the fact that the “real” problems that have become chronic between the two sides have not been addressed does not mean that these issues do not exist. The overlapping maritime jurisdictions of the two countries in the Sea of Islands and the Eastern Mediterranean, the Greek islands armed in violation of the Treaty of Lausanne, the reconsideration of the legal status of the 152 islands, islets and rocks in the Sea of Islands, whose ownership is unclear but which are occupied by Greece, issues such as the Greek airspace, which was declared as 10 miles in violation of international law, although its territorial waters are 6 miles, and, perhaps most importantly, Greece’s delirium to increase its territorial waters to 12 miles by citing the 1982 International Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Türkiye is not a party, and the announcement that Türkiye would accept this as a “casus belli” are still on the table.

The expansionist policy pursued by Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean with the claim that the islands, which have the status of semi-enclosed seas according to international law, have a continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and the invalidation of the agreements between Türkiye and Libya, the “Our Ocean-2024” conference in April in Athens where Greece announced its intention to declare two marine parks in the Sea of Islands and the Ionian Sea to provide cover for its desire to expand its EEZ, and the alliances it has formed to exclude Türkiye and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) from the energy equation in the Eastern Mediterranean constitute some of the current problems between the two countries.


While the press release made no reference to these vital issues in order not to spoil the positive agenda, the two leaders did not shy away from openly expressing their deep disagreements on some issues.

First of all, the Greek Cypriot side, which was encouraged by the decisions taken on Türkiye at the Special Summit of Heads of State and Government of the European Union (EU) held in Brussels on April 17-18, 2024, and dreamed of making concessions by linking Türkiye-EU negotiations to the Cyprus issue, was once again frustrated. Mitsotakis, who referred to the exhausted, dead and buried United Nations Security Council resolutions that were taken by the insistent request of the Greek Cypriot leadership and from which the Turkish Cypriot side had withdrawn consent, “hit” President Erdogan’s decisive stance. As TRNC President Ersin Tatar has emphasized many times before, it was important for President Erdogan to underline that it is not possible to start any official “process” in Cyprus without recognizing the inherent sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriot side, which is the equal and co-owner of the island, and without ending the illegal and inhumane isolation it is subjected to, and that the only just and sustainable solution on the island must be “on the basis of the realities on the island”, that is, in the form of cooperation between the two states that already exist.

It was also revealed in this statement that the two countries have completely different views on Hamas. Mitsotakis characterized Hamas as a “terrorist organization” with his statements implying that the massacres in Gaza were almost legitimate after the Israeli attack drew the justified reaction of President Erdogan. Describing Hamas as a resistance organization of the Palestinian people, not a “terrorist organization”, Erdogan declared that Türkiye will continue its diplomatic contacts to force Israel to cease fire and increase the recognition of the Palestinian state with determination.

Minorities issue

The minorities issue, which has been one of the main items on the agenda between the two countries for years, inevitably found a voice in this meeting. While Mitsotakis once again ignored the Turkish minority in Western Thrace and insistently used the term “Muslim” minority, it was ironic that he claimed that Turks have equal rights and are treated equally with Greeks and expressed regret that the Kariye Mosque, which has already been used for worship for hundreds of years, would function as a place of worship again.

Improving relations with Türkiye is of vital importance for Greece. Greece’s need for Türkiye, especially on energy and migration issues, cannot be ignored. As an energy corridor on the world’s most important hydrocarbon deposits and transit routes, Türkiye also plays a key role in the extraction and transfer of hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean to the European market with its exploration and drilling vessels, which very few countries in the world have. It is not possible for Greece to achieve a result without cooperating with Türkiye in solving many critical problems such as Europe’s access to energy resources in a safe and profitable way and the fight against illegal immigration, which is one of the most important elements of Greek domestic politics and is constantly on the agenda with the brutal interventions of Greek naval forces.

As a result, Greek foreign policy, which for years has been based solely on domestic political rhetoric, is presented with an important opportunity by the Turkish side’s constructive proposals for cooperation based on the realities on the ground. If Greece succeeds in freeing its relations with Türkiye from the “mortgage” of the Greek side and respects the sovereign rights and powers of the Turkish side, there are very important gains between the two sides based on the win-win principle. It should be emphasized here that the problems between the two sides will not be solved from across the Atlantic or in Brussels, but by two neighboring countries living side by side in this beautiful geography.

Source: AA

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