In recent months, immediately after the electoral victory of Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Greece, a reduction in tension between the two countries was observed. The aggressive rhetoric of Ankara went out of the foreground, while the systematic violations of the Greek airspace were minimized. The meetings of the two leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania in July and in New York in September, contributed to the creation of a climate of optimism around Greek-Turkish relations.
It is a fact that after the earthquakes in Turkey last February and in combination with the dire economic situation of the country and the bad diplomatic relations it has with the West, the political conditions for dialogue between the two sides of the Aegean were created. However, although Turkey tries to present itself as negotiator and in favor of negotiations, it does not seem to have changed its goals or to have moderated its regional ambitions. The tension between blue-collar workers and occupying forces in Pyla, Cyprus during the summer and the attempt to create new settlements on the island, is an indicative example of the destabilizing role that Turkey continues to play in the region. The Turkish president’s repeated statements about the need for a two-state solution in Cyprus are indicative of the real intentions of the Turkish leadership.
Moreover, the fact of the existence of her Doctrine cannot be overlooked Blue Homeland which is a key pillar of Turkish foreign policy in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. According to this, the non-demarcation of the Turkish EEZ and continental shelf based on Turkey’s positions causes many problems, such as enclosing Turkey’s land space and obstructing its right to access the sea areas that were in front of it. Also, the entrance to Antalya, one of the most important ports in the Eastern Mediterranean, is closed, Turkey’s maritime transport on the East-West axis is hindered, while security and defense problems are caused. It is worth noting that after 2015Turkey wishes to show at the international level that it is not prepared to accept any challenge to its naval power in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as in the Crete-Kastellorizo-Cyprus triangle.
Also, as a revisionist power, Turkey as early as 1973 made clear the range of issues it wished to be put on the negotiating table with Greece. In addition to the demarcation of the continental shelf, which Greece recognizes as the only difference between the two countries, Turkey raises, among other things, the issue of the extent of Greek territorial waters beyond the 6 nautical mile limit, threatening the Greece with war in case of exercising its legal rights in the Aegean. Also, the different range of airspace, which is 10 miles, in relation to the range of territorial waters which is 6, the limits of the Athens FIR, as well as the demilitarization regime of the eastern Aegean islands, the limits of the Search and Rescue Zone in the Aegean and the operational limits within the framework of NATO. Furthermore, with the Imia crisis in 1996, Turkey added the so-called “gray zones”.
In 2011, the issue of the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Aegean extended to the Eastern Mediterranean, when the debate arose regarding the possible delimitation of the continental shelf between Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. But along with these issues, one of the main issues that concern Turkish foreign policy is the Muslim minority of Thrace, which it insists on calling “Turkish”.
Also, Greece cannot forget the fact that in November 2019Turkey signed with its Government of National Unity Libya agreement on the demarcation of the maritime boundaries of the two countries, violating the Greek continental shelf.
Furthermore, Greece must take into account the immigration crisis in Evros when in March 2020, tens of thousands of migrants tried unsuccessfully to breach the land border en masse and enter Greek territory illegally, with Turkey doing nothing to stop them, and the military crisis in the summer of the same year, when Turkey attempted to conduct seismic surveys within the limits of the Greek continental shelf. The double crisis of 2020 proves that Turkey is constantly working on plans to overturn the balance of power in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean and is looking for the right opportunity to implement them.
Based on the above, it becomes extremely difficult to normalize relations with the neighboring country, as the issues that Turkey has put on the negotiation table are so many and touch the core of Greece’s sovereignty and sovereign rights, that it is practically impossible to find common ground between the two sides. Turkey’s reluctance to abandon its revisionist policies and its constant pursuit to force Greece to make unilateral concessions, even under the threat of creating new acts on the ground, make the current reduction in tensions temporary.