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Turkey, Greece meet to discuss strengthening ties

Turkey, Greece meet to discuss strengthening ties

 


Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrived in Turkey on Monday for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as part of a series of diplomatic initiatives aimed at fostering improved relations between the long-standing adversaries. However, experts say the potential for strengthened relations will be limited if fundamental issues are not resolved.

Despite the latest diplomatic steps showing a positive direction in relations between these two nations, Dimitriοs Makousis, geopolitical analyst at Strategy International Think Tank in Greece, says: The media line that in essence there has been no change in their relationship.

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“The current improvement in relations is temporary and reflects a tactical maneuver by Turkey,” he said, asserting that declarations of peace and cooperation serve to give Turkey the time and tolerance needed to balance the relations between West and East. “This depiction of friendship helps mitigate potential reactions from the EU and the US, given Turkey's current foreign policy and inflammatory rhetoric,” he continued.

“Despite the current friendly atmosphere, differences in self-perception, ideas, expression and aspirations persist, posing significant obstacles to potential convergence,” Makousis added.

Mustafa Metin Kaslilar, vice president of the Turkish Foreign Policy Research Center, said tensions between the two countries, related to the Cyprus issue, maritime borders and energy tensions, recently emerged following the activities of gas exploration in certain areas of the East. Mediterranean.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attend a news conference at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey May 13, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/UMIT BEKTAS)

“Especially during the period when Turkey was isolated, Greece turned that into an opportunity and signed certain agreements in the Mediterranean and tried to exclude Turkey from these agreements,” he said. The media line.

Turkey strengthens ties with Egypt

However, Kaslilar notes that Turkey's strengthening relations with Egypt in the Mediterranean and its maritime jurisdiction agreements with Libya have brought Turkey back into the equation. “Greece knows very well that without Turkey, any agreement in the Mediterranean would be meaningless because Turkey is a major route in the Eastern Mediterranean and a transit center for energy routes,” he continued.

Greek geostrategic analyst and political risk consultant Vassilis Kopsachilis, also director of the Verizon project, added that Turkey continues to view its relations with Greece and other neighbors as part of its revisionist agenda. “[Turkey] still occupies the lands of northern Syria, Iraq and Cyprus. And today it still claims land from Greece,” he said. The media line.

Kopsachilis claims that Athens and Ankara are engaged in talks because both are NATO allies and have strategic importance to the United States and NATO in the context of the ongoing wars between Russia, Ukraine and Israel-Hamas. “Foreign pressure is forcing Greece and Turkey to enter into negotiations,” he added.

He explains that both countries need foreign investment and economic support to address their economic imbalances, an additional factor in their recent rapprochement. “Things are far from warming up relations,” he added.

Dr Omar Munassar, an independent researcher and analyst of Middle East politics and security based in Turkey, explains: The media line that domestic politics must be taken into account when analyzing Turkish-Greek relations. “The current climate is conducive to the establishment of friendly relations between the two countries, particularly in light of the JDP decision [Justice and Development Party] is trying to restore its ties with the EU, with Greece being one of the key issues affecting Turkey's relations with it,” he said.

Munassar explains that significant progress can be expected in Turkish-Greek relations, given the decline of the political party in the recent municipal elections and the preparation for a future phase of problem-solving and focus on the 'economy.

That being said, according to Kalilar, the main issues between the two countries are still unresolved and the warming of relations between them is mainly based on a positive agenda. This means separating countries' mutual problems from areas of cooperation. “Problems persist, but areas of cooperation are prioritized,” he said.

According to Kopsachilis, certain areas of cooperation could mutually benefit both countries. He cited mitigating illegal immigration and drug trafficking as a top priority and added that tourism and mutual investments are other areas of activity where improvements have been seen.

Kaslilar believes that trade is one of the most promising areas of cooperation. He notes that Turkish exports to Greece currently stand at $2 billion and imports from Greece stand at $1 billion. “The goal is to increase the volume of trade from 4 to 10 billion dollars,” he continued, adding that he also expects rapprochement between Turkey and Greece in the field of nuclear energy.

Munassar says that despite various areas of cooperation, remaining key issues stand in the way of a full rapprochement. “This conflict is a sensitive popular issue for both the Turkish and Greek people, on which no leader of either country can compromise. Therefore, this rapprochement between the two countries could reach a good stage and then backtrack at some point,” he said.

Makousis echoes this sentiment and says resolving complex issues such as maritime borders, the Cyprus issue and violations of national airspace requires respect for international law. However, he adds, “given the current threat of the use of force and the questioning of Greece's national sovereignty in the Aegean Sea and Western Thrace, as reflected in the Treaty of Lausanne, such a development seems impossible. »

“Genuine will on both sides, as well as a common understanding of the nature and scope of the problems, are essential to resolution,” concluded Makousis.

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