Last week, the Turkish minister of defense once again denounced what he perceived as Greek attempts to reframe Greco-Turkish disputes as wider disputes between Turkey and third parties, powerful countries or regional entities.
Speaking during joint military exercises with the participation of Turkish and Azeri forces, Hulusi Akar called on Greece to “stop presenting Greco-Turkish issues as if they were issues affecting Turkey’s relationship with the United States or the European Union.”
Akar, an influential former military man and someone with a political future, is frustrated that his country’s often fractious relationship with Greece, perceived by some to be a “minor” player, results in tense standoffs with two political and economic superpowers like the US and the EU.
But as has been explained before, Greece is not reframing anything. It is simply a full member of the European Union. In addition, the influential Greek diaspora – especially in the US – is an important factor that cannot be discounted.
These characteristics hold true for Hellenism in its totality. They apply not just to Greece, but also to Cyprus. These are facts. No one is weaponizing anything. They are, fundamentally, a part of any interaction between any third country and Athens, as well as Nicosia.
If a country chooses to cultivate good relations with Greece, it can reap several benefits. For example, such good relations can facilitate that country’s inroads into the EU.
Greek territory is also European territory. Greece’s borders are Europe’s borders. Does this reality frustrate Akar? Possibly, and it is understandable. But this is the reality he faces. He can always blame Konstantinos Karamanlis, the Greek statesman who had the vision to push for and achieve his country’s EEC membership in 1980.
Today, after 40 years of Greece’s participation in the European family as an equal member, this is ipso facto an important dimension of the Greco-Turkish relationship.
Furthermore, across the world, millions of people of Greek heritage – who are also citizens of powerful nations and possess their own economic and political influence there – naturally monitor the relations of their motherland with other actors and act accordingly.
Is Akar frustrated by the presence of so many influential Greek Americans in the political life of the superpower? Is he frustrated that six Greek Americans are members of the United States House of Representatives, or by the fact that in the recent past the Greek-American community has had two senators, one presidential candidate, and one CIA director? Several American politicians who are not of Greek descent themselves still maintain close relations with and are influenced by the Greek-American community.
All of the above is a reality that becomes part of any development related to Greece, which obviously include its relationship with its neighbor to the East.
Hence, relations between Turkey and Greece are, to an extent, part of Turkey’s relations with the EU and the US. This is how Ankara should view the situation. And, in its analysis through this prism, it must realize that improving its relations with Athens will be beneficial to itself.