The evolving Greek-Turkish crisis is by all accounts preoccupying the government and has stirred the concern of the Greek people.

Citizens understand the significance of Turkish demands and hostility and are understandably unsettled, especially because Ankara is using the refugee-migrant crisis as leverage to pressure Greece in a variety of ways.

Right now the common conviction is that Greece is experiencing an Imia-like crisis (which in 1996 brought the two countries to the brink of war before the US interceded) with the threat of a military clash the duration and outcome of which is unknown.

It is as if the clock has turned back 24 years except that what is at stake this time around is broader and the dispute is infinitely more significant.

In 1996 the aim of the Turkish intervention was to challenge Greek sovereignty over Aegean islets.

Today, Ankara is disputing Greek sovereignty on a far wider scale in order to grab the substantial reserves of hydrocarbons in Greece’s Exclusive Economic zone (EEZ).

The common conviction is that the unfolding crisis will be arduous and, as one person involved in the matter stated, “The situation will worsen before it improves.”

That means that the government expects undesirable events and in preparation it is doing whatever possible to avert them.

The diplomatic efforts – including the numerous contacts and consultations of the PM with foreign leaders over the last several months – have sought to avert a clash that would be harmful for all sides.

The Greek government aims to highlight the arbitrary nature of the actions of Turkey – which Athens underlines is in the wrong because it is flagrantly violating the Law of the Sea (the 1982 Montego Bay Convention) –  and to stress their negative repercussions on regional peace.

It believes that the accomplishment of these objectives will constitute a dual wall of deterrence which will create problems and losses for Turkey in any bellicose power play.

The truth be told, Greece’s strategy is expressed by the phrase of the late PM Andreas Papandreou, “non-war”.

That is justifiable as Greece’s experience even in a controlled clash such as the one in Imia is not the best.

Those who lived through that crisis remember that it led to an arms race, undermined the economy, and corrupted politicians.

A few years later Greece went bankrupt largely for that reason.

In that sense Greece’s policy must be to exhaust every possibility of securing international pressure on Ankara.

Greece’s diplomatic marathon is already producing results.

More expansive alliance are gradually being built with France, Italy, Israel, Egypt, and other countries of North Africa.

Germany has been forced by circumstances to describe Turkey’s demands as illegal and the US as an ally is obliged to take a public stance in Greece’s favour without repudiating its alliance with Turkey.

Greece and Turkey are neighbours and that will never change so it behooves Athens to gradually create the conditions for a peaceful resolution of any disputes.

The two countries are obliged at some point to sit at the negotiating table.

They have done so many times in the past under much worse conditions than now.

Their leaders must exhibit foresight and a belief in a common, peaceful future.

 

 

 

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