Greek-Turkish relations were for a long time on a knife edge. We found ourselves very close – for the first time since 1996 – to armed conflict. Everything now points to a period of relative calm. There will be rhetorical clashes and controlled tensions but not uncontrollable crises.
Ankara came to the realization that it is expending an excessive amount of international capital on defending its stance toward Greece. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a lot of problems on his plate and wants tο keep relations with Greece cooled, for now. Of course, that will not be easy. His dependence on the nationalist Turkish extreme right-wing is obvious. He might not like it, but he needs it, and that makes tactical attacks on Greece and Cyprus a political necessity.
Athens and Ankara have agreed to disagree, but they can also accept that and live with it for some time. Diplomats will negotiate without pressure, the military can do the same using their own rulebook and time will pass, unless there are any Turkish missteps in Thrace today.
Cyprus is a different story. The pressure will not abate. The goal is to officially recognize the division of the island. Erdogan will move forward with the large project in occupied Famagusta, which is also an important investment for the Turkish business establishment. Funds are already being sought and the goal is to move forward with the project immediately. There also exists the scenario of Turkish drilling in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a scenario that remains in play but will depend on wider developments.
Turkey looks determined to push things to the brink on Cyprus to force the final resolution of the issue. Ankara is aware that the European Union would never allow an independent Turkish-Cypriot state to become an EU member as it would essentially be admitting Turkey itself, and its veto, into the club through the back door. Over the next months, the course that the “problem without a solution” – as it is now called by experienced diplomats – will take will become clear. Many following the developments wonder if the tragic denouement will be the annexation of the Turkish-Cypriot pseudostate by Turkey. We will see over the next two years.
The weather report then shows relative calm in the Aegean and increasing tension in Cyprus. What could reverse this prediction? Maybe a surprise announcement by Erdogan that the Oruc Reis has discovered gas reserves in the area between Cyprus and Kastellorizo? In that case, “history’s accelerator” would start working again.
Written by Alexis Papachelas for the Ekathimerini.