It is an indisputable fact that Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Tayyip Erdogan talked at noon last Friday, after a long period of silence which had been capped by the statement of the Turkish President (March 6) that he does not want to talk to Mr. Mitsotakis. Erdogan had claimed to have been shocked because Greece “closed” its borders, as it had every right, to the Turkish government’s pre-planned invasion by thousands of immigrants on Greek soil.
By Dimitris Hatzidimitriou
Obviously, their half-hour conversation neither solves the difficult equation of Greek-Turkish relations, nor can it be seen as the starting point for a process towards normalizing the situation that Turkey has created through its initiatives in the region. Of course, the conversation of the two men is offered, as an alibi for those, inside and outside Greece, who monotonously repeat the advice and the pressures, for “an understanding between the two sides”.
These same factors systematically ignore the realities that Ankara’s revisionist policy tends to shape. As a starting point, it is good for responsible leaders to talk, and even more so when it involves neighboring countries. As long as the dialogue is free from the backlash of imposing declared or unintentional intentions on the political agenda of one side on the other.
The only difference
If anything is impressive, it is the way in which the media in Athens and Ankara dealt with the conversation between the two leaders. This is despite the identical content of the official announcements, according to which “the two leaders discussed the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to address them, as well as issues related to the opening of borders and the restoration of tourist flows. Mr Mitsotakis and Mr Erdogan have agreed to keep bilateral communication channels open.”
The only difference in the statement of the Turkish Presidency, as broadcast by the State Radio and Television, is the addition that “they also discussed bilateral relations”. Regardless of this small, but substantial, difference in official announcements, what makes an impression is the identical reports of print and electronic media in Athens, in which the two leaders “referred to the recent tensions in the Aegean and agreed that they have reached unacceptably high levels!
In other words, according to those reporting (and their sources), Mr. Mitsotakis accepts and equates Turkey’s actual proclivities (Erdogan-Sarraj memorandum, overflights of Turkish fighters over Greek islands, daily threats by Turkish officials and the Turkish Ambassador to Athens, etc.) with the self-evident statements of the Greek Ministers of Foreign Affairs and National Defense, but also of the Chief of the General Staff, who stand in highlighting their obligations to defend their territorial integrity, sovereignty, and sovereign rights!
Greek media and Finlandization
For many decades, the projection, communication-wise, of Greek-Turkish issues has been less than fortunate, precisely because it has been the subject of ill-considered manipulations – and reasons – by people with usually good intentions, but little or no knowledge of the parameters and difficult aspects of the Greek-Turkish conflict, for a span of almost half a century.
Suddenly, the articles of otherwise distinguished academics, who call on Greek citizens to “understand the truths of others”, that is, of Turkey, have intensified. They throw Kastellorizo into the mill of their own truth and its right to sea zones, national airspace, and its extent, the expansion of territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, to the point of claiming that “Greece’s conflict with Turkey will not end in our favor through nationalist cries and invocation of International Law or conflict ”!
Against such “astute” arguments, it is worth noting e.g. that the flights of Turkish fighters over Greek islands are a blatant violation of national sovereignty, which no state with institutional dignity would accept without reacting. Perhaps for this particular school of thought, the “Finlandization” of Greece is not enough to appease Turkish aggression!