Are Greece-Turkey Talks Doomed to Fail?

Greece-Turkey exploratory talks are likely to fail, experts say



Greece-Turkey talks
Turkish vessel the Oruc Reis is escorted into Greek waters by five Turkish Navy vessels on Monday, August 10. Photo: Turkish Defense Ministry

The Greece-Turkey talks are more likely than not to fail, analysts say, as the two sides prepare for recommencing negotiations on January 25, after a a five-year hiatus.

The exploratory talks between the neighboring countries will take place in Istanbul, as respective foreign ministers Nikos Dendias and Mevlüt Cavusoglu are meeting today, Wednesday, with EU officials to inform them about the agenda.

The United States welcomed the exploratory talks related to maritime zone delimitation, the US State Department said on Tuesday.

A State Department spokesperson said that the US supports all efforts to reduce tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the talks could contribute to that effort.

However, the resumption of the dialogue begins with a big question mark — the different starting points of the two sides in regard to what is to be discussed.

Differences from the start

Athens will sit at the negotiating table to discuss a single issue, which is the delimitation of maritime zones in the Aegean, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has made clear.

Ankara, on the other hand, wishes to bring several issues to the table, such as the continental shelf, demilitarization of Greek islands, gray zones and airspace in the Aegean, and exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, Ankara wants to discuss several issues that involve not only the Aegean but the wider Eastern Mediterranean area.

In the Aegean, Turkey wants to discuss issues relating to the continental shelf, territorial waters, airspace, demilitarization of islands and islets, air traffic centers (FIR), and jurisdictions of operations.

As for the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus, Ankara wants to bring up the continental shelf and EEZ, in the context of a “fair solution” for the protection of the rights of Turkish-Cypriots in the occupied part of the island.

Greece has made it clear from the start that issues such as continental shelves and territorial waters are not up for discussion because they have already been decided by the Treaty of Lausanne.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Credit: kremlin.ru/Wikimedia Commons

Turkish provocations undermine trust

In the five years since the last talks between the two sides, Turkey has provoked Greece  and Cyprus almost continuously, with tensions culminating in 2020 with a series of almost never-ending illegal actions.

The Turkish research ship Oruc Reis — accompanied by warships — repeatedly violated  Greek territorial waters searching for oil and gas. Also, Turkish fighter jets violated Greek airspace over the Aegean on almost a daily basis.

During the year, a barrage of Turkish propaganda accused Greece of raising tensions in the Aegean, while the European Union received fire as well for supporting its own members, Greece and Cyprus.

Turkey’s illegal acts came to a screeching halt, however, in December, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan changed course by extending a sudden hand of friendship to the EU and the United States.

Erdogan changes course

According to Director of Research Programs of the International Affairs Institute, Nikos Filis,  Ankara’s turn to the West is nothing but a tactical move, in order to not disrupt relations with the West.

Speaking to MEGA TV, Filis said that by putting so many illogical demands on the table that will force Greece to stop negotiating, Erdogan will be able to blame Greece and then feel justified to go to war.

“Turkey will show that the Greek side cannot negotiate things that a country negotiates when it loses in a war,” Filis said, adding that Ankara will continue provocations after that.

“Turkey will try slowly — and by using both blackmail and diplomatic ways — to slip into full-fledged deliberations. We have to be very careful,” Filis said.

Turkish demands are unreasonable

Ioannis Mazis, a professor of Economic Geography and Geopolitics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, shares the same view, calling the Turkish agenda for the talks unreasonable.

“I do not see the exploratory talks bearing any results and I am afraid that in March we will have new issues and disagreements that will lead to new aggravations,” Mazis said.

Costas Yfantis, a professor of International Relations at Panteion University, said that Greece wanted the exploratory talks, but Turkey has torpedoed the issue at least twice.

The professor said that he does not rule out the possibility that provocations will start again  and the tension Turkey uses as a lever of pressure will continues, and that the Greek side needs to endure.