Friday 17 July 2009

Turkey’s Strategy in the Aegean Sea

Stavros Lygeros published an excellent opinion letter, Dangerous Precedents, in the English version of the Kathimerini today. He recounts that:

"Turkish provocations are not circumstantial but rather reflect long-term strategic plans. On 29 January, 1996, Turkey included the above three islands (as well as Pserimos) in the same category as the Imia islets. A few days later, then Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said that she would raise the issue of some 1,000 islets. “So far, Turkey subconsciously accepted that these islands practically belong to Greece. We are going to change that,” she told Hurriyet at the time."

We can expect further tensions between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus this year:

a. The negotiations between the government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish-Cypriot authorities representing the occupied part of Cyprus are likely to reach some form of preliminary conclusion if the process is to be continued.

b. By December, Turkey will have to open its national ports and airports to Cypriot-flagged vessels and airplanes under its terms of the Accession negotiations with the European Union. So far, it has been in blatant violation of the basic terms of Accession: not only does it discriminate against EU member states, but it is occupying nearly 40% of the territory of one of them.

c. The domestic political scene continues to evolve, with the AK party seeking to consolidate power, and the armed forces responding in the face of the highly embarrassing Ergenekon coup network. It remains to be seen what information will still see the light of day.

d. The Turkish economic situation is declining rapidly, yet the government is delaying negotiations with the IMF and delaying a quick adjustment to the situation. A significant share of the population is feeling the impact of the credit crisis and the fall in tourism and construction, as well as the declining job markets in the EU, where many Turkish migrant workers are based. The AK party is not reacting as well as it perhaps should to the crisis: on the other hand, there are few credible political alternatives.

In the midst of this contradictory policy, Turkey seeks to convince the world it is a peaceful partner. Its actual record in terms of foreign policy suggests something entirely different. Greece has to take urgent measures, supported by the entire Hellenic diaspora, to affirm Greek sovereignty over its territory. This issue cannot be swept under the rug of wishful thinking: it will only grow with time, until the crisis point is reached.

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