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27 February, 2021
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Turkey is waiting for its next opportunity

Greek-Turkish relations in the forefront

Alexis Papachelas

Alexis Papachelas

Both the current administration and the next will be called upon to manage Greek-Turkish relations at their most critical phase since the invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

What is developing before our eyes is a systematic strategy engineered by Turkey to bring into question the status quo in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean regions. All evidence points to a climax in tensions next autumn.

Turkey always waits for the right opportunity to promote its claims. In 1955, there was a power vacuum in Athens and Greece was on a collision course with Britain.

In 1964, Ankara tried to take advantage of an unstable political situation in Greece but it was thwarted by the United States. In 1967, Turkey took advantage of the junta’s inexperience and isolation and got what it wanted in the withdrawal of Greek troops from Cyprus.

In 1974 they had the perfect opportunity and they pounced on it. In 1996, they openly raised the issue of “gray zones” in the Aegean Sea, knowing full well they had before them a new government that did not control anything and was deeply divided.

Turks are patient. They build up their arguments and their claims while waiting for the next opportunity. The aim is to drag Greece to the negotiating table under unfavorable conditions.

It is quite likely that Ankara will attempt to cause a crisis and, through it, to force a debate on all the issues that it wants to raise.

It sees the instability and political weakness of the government. The international climate is also blurry and unclear. The military asymmetry in some areas is quite worrying. A positive element is that Greece, like Cyprus, has powerful allies. It remains to be seen, however, just how solid and effective these allies would be in the event of a crisis.

The only good thing is that the channels of communication between the government and the opposition are currently open and working. So far, Greek-Turkish relations have not been dragged into the fierce political confrontation.

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