Veniamin Karakostanoglou: Why Greece accepted the exploratory talks – “Let me see no evil”

Why Greece accepted the exploratory talks - Let me see no evil, Veniamin Karakostanoglou
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In a recent article, I presented and evaluated the past exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey. I concluded, then, that for 14 years and 60 rounds of meetings, they were merely an end in themselves, which did not promote any convergence of positions. In addition, it froze Greece’s use of the legal arsenal provided by the Law of the Sea and at the same time gave Turkey the initiative of moves that led to the theory of the Blue Homeland, claims on many Greek islands and the Turkish-Libyan Memorandum.

Today I will refer to the reasons for Greece’s acceptance of the exploratory talks and the policy that our country must follow in view of the 61st round of the new exploratory talks that are imminent. There were obviously two reasons that prompted the Greek government to accept this new process:

Firstly, the fact that, after the show of force on both sides, the so-called “de-escalation” came after intense and high-level diplomatic activity by both the EU (and in particular the German Presidency and permanent member of the UN Security Council, France), as well as the USA.

Regardless of Turkey’s absolute responsibility for the crisis, and the zero or scant prospects for the process to succeed, it would be extremely difficult for the Greek government to refuse a dialogue, even an exploratory one (although this is a euphemism). Criticism would be direct against the country for rigidity and lack of flexibility! Especially because Greece asked for diplomatic support.

Secondly, the most essential reason, in my opinion, was to provide time for Greece to accelerate and complete its military readiness and especially the supply of advanced weapons systems, mainly for naval and air forces but also its missile arsenal. This is because the possibility of finding common ground in the talks is entirely theoretical.

Turkey will probably refuse a joint appeal to The Hague or do so with a package of issues that Greece must reject. Because the recent crisis was probably the last “general rehearsal” of the Turks before the implementation of their grandiose plans for military coercion of Greece for unacceptable concessions on the issues of maritime zones, but also in “gray zones” areas (Greek islands Turkey claims as its own) and the disarmament of the islands of the Eastern Aegean.

Wrong messages

After the wrong messages we gave to the Turks, in Cyprus in 1974 and in Imia in 1996, regarding our military capability and effective deterrence (something that emboldened Turkey and brought an actual confrontation closer), in a possible (and very probable) military conflict, small or large, Greece must emerge victorious.

Greece must be victorious, in substance and as concerns impressions, in order to stop Turkey’s disastrous descent into the policy of threat and use of force, in order to achieve the grandiose goals of its “National Oath” and its ” Blue Homeland “, which, by promoting border change and illegal tresspassing in maritime zones, are in conflict with international law, the principles of the EU, and of course the UN, but also NATO.

The recent thorough and effective mobilization of Greek Armed Forces was an important “breath” and assurance for the Greek people and a serious message to Turkey about the cost and result of a possible conflict. Woe to Greece if it loses in a possible armed incident or conflict!

Our satelliteization by Turkey and the collapse of our dignity, sovereignty and international position will be permanent and catalytic. Despit 10 years of bankruptcy, because of the Turkish risk, the rapid allocation of funds for the maintenance, upgrading and modernization of our Armed Forces is required.

The precedent of the “Macedonian issue”

The recent announcements of the Prime Minister at the TIF Forum are a good first step, but this will be judged by the leadership of the army, which must be heeded as the danger of a Turkish attack is immediate, as is the possibility of the collapse of exploratory talks. If these are not fast track (a few months), then they will slip into another 14 years, lost for the radical upgrade of the maritime rights of Greece and the reaping of the possible benefits from the submarine and marine wealth of our adjacent seas, with 15,000 kilometers of Greek coastline (almost twice that of Turkey).

Let us not forget the tragic mistakes of the Athens-Skopje talks in the context of the Interim Agreement of 1995, which lasted, without reason, for 22 years (!), Giving the neighbors the opportunity to obstruct the essentials that remained unresolved (state name, ethnicity, language, citizenship), until 2017. At the same time, they did not promote bilateral recognitions by other states with the usurping of the Greek name of the “Republic of Macedonia”, which contributed to the illegal use of the name by Skopje, and contributed to the bad Prespa Agreement. Let us not mourn other, major national defeats in our historical seas around Greece.

Why do the allies insist

But why do our allies and partners insist on the resumption of exploratory talks? They want to be able to manage the problem, over time, despite the very high probability (certainty) of not achieving progress and solution. But this is how Greece ended up being the last (149th) country in the world in maritime rights!

Wanting to avoid a clash between two NATO allies and seeking to keep Turkey in NATO, despite its close cooperation with Russia (perhaps in the post-Erdogan era), they avoid condemning Ankara’s policies or imposing heavy economic sanctions. Thus they equate the perpetrator with the victim and enrage the “beast”! It is what the popular opinion implies: “let me see no evil”!

However, this tactic does not solve the problem, but is “kicking the can down the road” for even more years. With damage accruing for Greece! Our allies and partners know that Turkey will not accept or interpret International Law in good faith, as it is visible that it is adapting it to its necessities and distorting it!

So, tacitly (if not consciously) they promote the retreat of Greece! Germany does not want to be hotly involved during its current European Presidency, and the EU does not want to impose financial sanctions on Turkey, so as not to lose its large market and upset the approximately 4 million Turkish immigrants within its territory. The US wants to reach the US November elections without any problems, so that the initiative of President Trump that pressured Erdogan to “discuss” and “de-escalate” will look successful! And of course to garner the votes of Greek Americans.

But no one really cares to apply and consolidate International Law by finding a solution compatible with it! After all, what happened and continues for 46 years in the Cyprus issue, hioghlights international reluctance and hypocrisy! This, unfortunately, in practice, Athens also tolerates, talking about an inter-communal problem, and forgetting the dimension of invasion and occupation! I hope we do not repeat the mistakes of the past in these “negotiations”.

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