Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis promises “major reforms” after a landslide victory in recent parliamentary elections as he begins his new four-year term. Although he did not mention the type of the reforms, in addition to various economic and livelihood issues, the reforms can include new steps in foreign policy. Recently, referring to the opportunity to meet Erdogan, he has said that even if the differences between the two countries are not resolved, the tension in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean may gradually decrease.
Following the decisive victory of the Greek conservative party in the elections, Turkish President Erdoğan congratulated the Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis on his victory and expressed hope that “his re-election will create an opportunity for the development of bilateral relations between the neighboring countries.”
After the recent elections in the two countries, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan also spoke with the new Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis, congratulating him on his appointment. During the telephone conversation, which the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs described as “very sincere,” the two sides agreed on a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius.
After Erdogan said recently that in the meeting he would have with the prime minister of Greece, he would say, “What is this? Mr. Prime Minister, stop the armaments now. So where are you going with these armaments?” Once again, the fragility of the relations between the two countries was confirmed. The new Prime Minister of Greece, Mitsotakis, concerning the arms purchases of the Greek armed forces and in response to the Turkish side, claimed, “Greece is compelled to strengthen its armed forces.”
At the same time, Greece has activated its influential lobby in the United States to prevent Turkey from being equipped with the F-16 fighter. Following the activity of this lobby, “Chuck Schumer,” the leader of the American Democrats, claimed: “Turkey is a major threat to global security, and we must do everything we can to resist its aggression… The notion that the United States must trust Turkey to respect global rules and the international order is not only dangerous, it endangers our security and that of our allies.”
Greek and Cypriot organizations in the US, among other Greek lobby centers, recently expressed their opposition to the total sale of the fighter mentioned above jets to Turkey in a letter to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Those organizations claim that Turkey, far from the spirit of alliance, has repeatedly used its air fleet against Greece to create cross-region instability, weaken the interests of the West in the fight against terrorism, and threaten the US main allies and partners, such as Greece and Cyprus.
Greece and Turkey are both NATO allies, but they are historical enemies. The two countries have had severe differences for several decades regarding various issues such as airspace, maritime areas in the Eastern Mediterranean, illegal immigration, and the issue of Cyprus. But in the current situation, this point of view is raised in Greece that the two countries can improve bilateral relations in various fields without changing their positions. Greece recognizes the existence of only one dispute in bilateral relations with Turkey, which is the delimitation of maritime areas (continental plateau and exclusive economic zone) between the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean countries. According to Greece, other issues raised by Turkey have been resolved within the framework of international treaties and international law. Still, it will not enter into a discussion with Turkey regarding the issues of sovereignty, sovereign rights, and the arming of the islands.
Not long ago, in an event that angered Greece, the membership of the Republic of Northern Cyprus in the “Organization of Turkic States” was approved as an observer member. During the past decades, despite the efforts of the United Nations, the disputes between Turkey and Greece over the Turkish and Greek areas of Cyprus have continued. Turkey has also opposed the 2018 European and NATO cooperation plans due to its opposition to the European positions in Cyprus. Cyprus is a member of the European Union, but Ankara has blocked its membership in NATO.
Recently, in a sudden turn, the United States stopped sending F-35 fighter jets to Greece until after the upcoming NATO meeting and stated that the reason for this is the risk of Sweden’s membership in NATO by Ankara. It seems that the reason for this delay can be the US effort to maintain the balance between Greece and Turkey, as well as Washington’s concern about Turkey’s constant complaints about the US policy in recent months, and especially the jeopardy of Sweden’s membership in NATO.
A group of US officials believes that if Greece moves closer to buying the F-35, the effort to convince Turkey of Sweden’s membership in NATO will be in jeopardy. Despite the agreement of the heads of the foreign relations and international affairs committees of the US Senate and House of Representatives with the sale of the F-35, the project has been postponed.
On the eve of the meeting of the heads of the two countries, the recent statements of the Greek prime minister at the European Union summit in Brussels that the European Union can provide new economic support to Turkey to fight the migrant problem are evaluated positively. He believes that Turkey should be the main ally in the fight against the refugee problem. The European Union provides millions of euros to support Turkey and can give more.
In recent months, this question has been raised in Athens, how long will the calm and positive atmosphere that emerged after the “earthquake diplomacy” continue? And can the first meeting of the heads of the two countries after the victory of both sides in the elections have positive and lasting effects on the relations? Greek people and parties are waiting to see the results of the new diplomacy between the two countries after the devastating earthquake in Turkey.