Turkey, Greece … Historical Crises that won’t end through De Facto Negotiations

Despite the statements of the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşo Oglu, on Jan. 27th about positivity that overshadowed the negotiations with the Greek side, doubts are still growing about the possibility of reaching a final agreement on the disputed files between Turkey and Greece.  The negotiations have not yet been accompanied with any concrete steps for approach between the two neighbors.

Talks between Ankara and Athens have been resumed last week, after a five-year-suspension, with the aim of finding solutions to the long-running maritime disputes.

“It is not new, as the two sides held dozens of negotiation sessions in the recent years, and always ended with without results. On the contrary, relations between them led to more crises,” says Omar Khairy, a researcher on Turkish affairs, commenting on Oglu’s statements. He points out that the size and types of problems between Ankara and Athens need a historical agreement more than negotiation sessions.

It is noteworthy that the Turkish-Greek relations are ruined by several historical and ancient problems, foremost of which is the issue of Aya Sophia and the disputed islands, especially the Norther part of Cyprus, in addition to the gas exploration crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, which almost reached a military clash between them.

International changes activate diplomacy

Khairy points out that the growing Turkish trend towards more dialogue on its issues with Greece and the EU in general, is not linked to the Ankara government’s desire to reach a solution. It is rather linked to changes on an international basis. The most important change of which is the departure of the former US president, Donald Trump, and the arrival of the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden in Washington. That event points out that Turkey is concerned about the latter’s policy and the possibility of adopting more hard-line approaches towards Ankara.

 Turkey has been subjected to a series of US sanctions in recent years against the backdrop of the Russian S-400 missile deal, amid rising European criticism of Turkish interventions in Syria and Libya, in addition to the Mediterranean crisis.

In the same context, the political analyst, Ahmed Al Shahna, inclines that the negotiations will be merely playing on time, on despite of Turkey, especially since the EU and Greece said that Turkish government and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan statements do not match with their actions, pointing out that the Turkish government continues to excavate.

Alshahna  also indicates that Oglus statements and the increase of positivity in the Turkish position is caused by Turkey’s unwillingness to internationalize the crises between them and Greece, especially after Greece threatened exactly that a few days ago, pointing out the escalation of crises inside Turkey and with the West, which creates a desire for The Turkish government to avoid any international isolation.

It is noteworthy that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Nikos Dendias, indicated that if negotiations did not start after the preliminary talks between Turkey and Greece, the case should be referred to the International Court in The Hague, adding: “I want to be clear that this issue is a redrawing of the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf in the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean Sea based on international law.“

Turkey and Greece were also engaged in 60 rounds of talks between 2002 and 2016, but plans for discussions that were to be resumed last year collapsed due to Ankara sending a survey ship to disputed waters, and disagreements over issues that should be covered.

Return to the West after the failure of heading east

The policy that Turkey has pursued over the past years, by heading towards China and Russia after its crisis with the United States and the European Union, which the political analyst Rawad Hiso considers as an additional factor in Ankara’s attempt to correct relations with Greece and from there with the European Union, pointing out that the policy of orientation in the east has failed to compensate Turkey, politically and economically, for its dream of joining the European Union, or to build an exceptional partnership with the European side.

Hiso is guided in his assessment, by statements of the Turkish President, which he launched at the end of last year, where he confirmed his desire to open a new page with the European Union in general. He also indicates that Turkey has realized its inability to abandon the association with the Western camp, especially as it is a member in NATO.

It is noteworthy that the Turkish President had stated earlier, during a telephone conversation with the President of the EU, Charles Michel, for what he described as “saving” Turkish-European relations and re-launching dialogue with the European Union on the basis of mutual interests.

In the same context, the economic analyst, Ghaleb Al-Ajami considers that Turkey’s entry into the negotiations and raising the level of optimistic statements regarding the expected results from the negotiations is caused by concern over the list of sanctions that the EU is preparing against it due to the fact that no progress is made in the political and diplomatic aspects. Concerning the outstanding issues between the two sides, Turkey is certain that the alliance with the East Axis will not help it to overcome the effects of these sanctions, especially in light of the escalation of the Turkish economic crisis.

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