The editor of Turkey’s biggest English-language newspaper, the centrist Hurriyet Daily News, has said Greece is “not high up the agenda” for Ankara which is embroiled in conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
Murat Yetkin was speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) in a wide-ranging interview. In it he said that although airspace violations and the eight Turkish ex-soldiers applying for asylum in Greece were serious issues, Turkey’s location in the middle of regional conflicts was creating “nervousness” in Ankara:
“Turkey is neighboring to two major civil wars in Syria and Iraq at once, a major crisis in its north, Russia-Ukraine, more major sources of terror attack and problems, not to mention the Armenian-Azeri conflict in the Caucasus and on-and-off problems with Iran, whereas Greece has its one serious problem with Turkey, which is — to be frank — not high up on the agenda of Turkish people and politics.”
Yetkin said Ankara viewed the issue of the soldiers as being more serious than airspace violations, which he said were from “both sides”.
“[President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan asks what would the Greek government and people think if the same thing happened in Greece and soldiers defected to Turkey. The question was put to Tsipras last week and he gave the same ‘courts are independent’ answer that is given by Erdogan when questioned about the situation of journalists and politicians in prison.”
On Cyprus, Yetkin suggested a major stumbling block was what he called Greek Cypriots’ view of Turkish Cypriots as a minority, rather than as political equals.
“Turkey had already agreed to gradually withdraw its troops on the island in the 2004 Annan Plan, which was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots but rejected by the Greek Cypriots, ” he was quoted as saying
“I don’t think that is the real problem there. I think the real problem is that the Greek Cypriots do not want to see the Turkish Cypriots as an equal entity but only a minority. I think the key is political equality; once it is achieved all other problems from troops to security guarantees and land share could be solved rather easily.”
On relations with the EU, Yetkin suggested Turkey’s leadership and the EU have “great advantages from each other but neither of them wants to accept each other as they are”.
Yetkin was one of a number of Turkish and Greek journalists who gathered in Istanbul in March to debate coverage of Greece and Greek issues. That meeting was also attended Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Although Hurriyet is described as being a middle-market paper editorially, on March 21, shortly after the Istanbul meeting, its owners, the Dogan Yayin media group, was sold to Demiroren Holding for $1.2 billion, a company with close links to Turkey’s ruling party.