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Turkish Foreign Policy and Turco-Greek Relations – Ethnos newspaper interview

Turkish Foreign Policy and Turco-Greek Relations – Ethnos newspaper interview

1. What is the situation in Turkey lately, after the first wave of the pandemic, politically, socially and economically. What is the major issue in the country? To what extent do Turkish citizens deal with the Greek-Turkish tension in the Aegean now and earlier as well regarding the border in Evros?

The very first problem with Turkish-Greek relations is the fact that, as Herakles Millas says, both states and nations gained their independence and built their national consciousnesses fighting each other, with an interval of a century (1821 and 1922). What’s more, the two peoples resemble very much to the other. Both nations are very nationalistic. This is the bad legacy of the past.On top of all this, there is now one more and very crucial factor in Turkey: The presence and nature of Erdoğan: 1) He needs tension, both internally and externally, to cover up the worsening domestic situation, especially in economy; 2) For various reasons, he cannot afford to fall from power.This is a discouraging picture, but this is what we have at the moment. Turkish people, including the opposition (apart from HDP) is under nationalistic influence of Erdoğan’s policies. This’ll pass, the “Blue Fatherland” of some retired generals appreciated by Erdoğan will lose, but we need time. Evros frontier is not a problem for the time being.

2. How do you comment on Erdogan’s moves both in the refugee situation with the pressure on the borders of Evros, the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the Turkish-Libyan agreement but also the tension in the Aegean in the summer? What is his goal? What does he want to achieve? Do you think that he will succeed? Do you predict any new refugee pressure from Turkey to Greece through both the Evros and the Aegean in the winter?

Refugees: The EU countries were rightfully frightened by a tsunami of refugees, but “the bosses” hardly moved a finger to
prevent it. All they had to do was to FULLY pay the expenses for these people to temporarily settle and stay in Turkey. They did not.They hardly payed some pennies. This is condemnable. Refugees,Turkey, and Greece, in that order, payed and are paying because of this. I do not predict an influx of refugees in the near future, unless something very very unexpected happens in Syria, and the EU continues to be disinterested. The refugee issue is effectively usedin the recent past, and I do not blame Erdoğan for pressurizing the EU. Hagia Sofia: We all know that for a great number of Muslims in Turkey H. Sofia’s transformation into a mosque had always been acherished utopia. But this move by Erdoğan means three things at least: 1) He is so entrapped by a worsening domestic situation that he acted despite a probable international reaction; and, a natural and very strong reaction by Turkish secularists; 2) This is an important contradiction because Islamist AKP is building between 500 and 1.000 of mosques every year; 3) This is another contradiction because AKP said: “We are carrying Ayasofya to its old position”. The old position is not a mosque but an Orthodox church; history didn’t start with the Ottoman Empire. Libya and eastern Mediterranean: This is dictated by two dire needs of Erdoğan: 1) Upon pressure by Russia, Islamist mercenaries had to be moved from the Turkish-Syrian frontier to Afrin in the south. But because they were not wanted there either, they were moved to Libya where Serrac backed by Turkey neededthem; 2) Erdoğan, again, needed domestic nationalist support. In other words, Libyan move is definitely for domestic consumption also. This is because Islamism is just not enough to maintain Erdoğan in power; a much more important energizer is needed: Turkish nationalism. On the other hand, let us not forget that it’s the same at the other side of the Aegean: Is Orthodoxy enough to activate the Greek people in dire external issues, or would the Greek governments rather need Greek nationalist feelings? Will Erdoğan succeed in his Libyan move? Certainly no. This is already a fiasco

3. How far can Erdogan go? Is it possible that there will be an army intervention in the future?

As I said above: Erdoğan cannot afford to fall from power. Military coup, I hope not! For the moment, this is not a probability.

4. What do you expect from the exploratory contacts that are expected to start in the next period between Greece and Turkey? Do you think this is a sham dialogue or can the talks lead to a solution to the problem?

Talk, even futile talks are preferable to shows of force. Eventually both countries will resort to diplomacy at the end.

5. How could the situation escalate and at what point could reciprocal concessions be made from Ankara and Athens?

The situation can escalate if the Greek part imitates Erdoğan; we witnessed some former ministers like Panos Kammenos (April 2018) who provoked the Turkish part. Without forgetting “statesmen” like Pangalos, of course. Also, Greece should not rely/trust too much on the states of the EU; every state has its own national interests apart from that of Greece. On the other hand, some provocations like the “Siktir git Mr. Erdoğan” of the miserable Dimokratia should be masterfully thwarted if possible, for the interest of both countries, because Turkish nationalist are feeding on things like this.

6. Europe, with the exception of France, has a moderate attitude towards the Erdogan government. Any comments on that?

Greece is a member of EU. But membership in a loose international organization is hardly something to count upon in sharp crises.

7. How feasible is it to have a solution to the Cyprus problem? 

Look, there we got a deadlock. A bad one. This problem is the Achilles’ heel of both countries because both of them are very nationalistic and because this colossal headache became ossified in time. The Annan Plan refusal by the Greek Cypriots was a great mistake, very much appreciated by nationalists in Turkey, of course! Also, it was a great mistake for the EU to admit Republic of Cypruswithout solving the Cyprus problem one way or the other, totally ignoring the Turkish Cypriots. It looks like this problem became much more insoluble after this.

8. After all, is the problem in the wider region not Turkey but Erdogan? Is it estimated that if there is a change of political leadership in Turkey, Athens and Ankara will come closer?

I believe I already answered this question in full. An empathy to build between the two countries will not unfortunately be achieved with a change in power only. But of course, it’ll then be less disturbing. The real problem, I repeat, is Greek nationalism in Greece, and Turkish nationalism in Turkey. Both nationalisms are respectively harming their very own countries, as is usual all around the world

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