The West prepares a new mediation in Greek-Turkish

By | May 1, 2023

New window of opportunity? It will depend on the governments that emerge in the elections in the two countries, if they will accept this initiative.

Just a few months ago there were fears in the western capitals -and in Athens- of a military escalation between Greece and Turkey on the way to the Turkish elections. These concerns were fueled by the Turkish president’s endless provocations towards Greece and the almost daily violations of Greek sovereignty in the airspace over the Aegean. Erdogan’s “politics of provocations”, as described by a German diplomat, are now a thing of the past. We are witnessing a “turn” in Greek-Turkish relations. More than any other politician in Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias verbalizes climate change when he repeatedly refers to his Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu as “my friend Mevlut” and talks about the “good weather” among the two countries. This happened recently at the Delphi Economic Forum.

“window of opportunity”

The conference in this mythical place, which is often referred to as the “Davos of the Mediterranean”, has become an important informal international summit, where the main challenges of our time are discussed and, as in the case of relations Greco-Turkish, new are addressed, news are announced. Although, naturally, the Ukraine issue dominated the agenda, the statements and insinuations heard about the Greco-Turkish language in Delphi are, in my opinion, even more important for Greek politics.

The message in a nutshell: After the elections in Turkey and Greece, there will be a new internationally coordinated effort to resolve the differences between the two countries. While there was talk last year of the risk of escalation, now top Western diplomats have coordinated for a “window of opportunity.” The United States and Germany want to play a central role in the new Western initiative.

The division of tasks between Berlin and Washington already became visible when last December the Germans brought senior diplomats from the two countries to the negotiating table in Brussels after months without direct communication between Greece and Turkey. Berlin’s secret diplomacy laid the foundation for the so-called “earthquake diplomacy” launched immediately after the natural disaster in Turkey in early February.

Meanwhile, top politicians on both sides of the Aegean say good weather is a prerequisite for starting a new political process. “We will see a very serious effort to solve the problems after the elections,” the US ambassador to Athens, Georges Tsounis, said with rare clarity in Delphi. Jens Pletner’s statements go in the same direction. The adviser to the German chancellor told Delphi that the elections in both countries “offer a good opportunity to positively boost stability in the region.”

Tensions between Greece and Turkey are a “poison” for NATO

As if they had reached an agreement, the top diplomats of Germany and the US added that the mediation offer is of course only valid if it is accepted by the governments of Athens and Ankara. The US ambassador went a step further by pointing out that there is a “will to compromise” on both sides. “Differences can be worked out,” Tsounis said, since after all “it’s not about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.” He then uttered a phrase that the Greek government would rather not hear: “Neither party (meaning neither the Greeks nor the Turks) has a monopoly on what is right and what is wrong.” Western diplomats admit they have not done enough in the past to promote a solution to the disputes between Greece and Turkey. The war in Ukraine has created a new situation and again explains the urgency of the matter.

The strategic importance of Greece and Turkey has risen sharply since February 2022. Tension, or even open conflict, on NATO’s southeastern flank is poison for the Western alliance in its fight against Russia. Washington and Berlin are determined to “neutralize” this poison. The coming months will show whether or not the governments that emerged from the elections in Athens and Ankara will accept the offer of mediation from the allies.

*Dr. Ronald Mainardus is a political analyst and commentator and Principal Investigator of ELIAMEP. In the mid-1990s he was director of the Greek editorial office of Deutsche Welle.

Source: Deutsche Welle

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