A private two-hour meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Ankara this week has brought renewed hope for the future of relations, but both leaders now need to act constructively, said Tom Ellis a journalist and commentator for the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
Erdoğan needs to avoid threatening behaviour, accept international laws regarding the Aegean Sea, and that a solution for the divided Cyprus must include the absence of foreign troops and guarantors, Ellis said .
“Erdoğan would be wise to acknowledge these facts and act accordingly,” he said. “Threats, harassment and provocations may earn him points on the domestic public relations front, but they are not doing his country any favours.”
Political tensions between Turkey and Greece over Cyprus and territorial rights to the Aegean have resurfaced over the past year, creating concern in the European Union and the United States about regional stability. Turkey keeps tens of thousands of troops on Cyprus, which has been divided along ethnic lines since the 1970s.
Greek-Turkish relations have always been a balancing act, Ellis said. The current mood has not been helped by the presence of eight Turkish servicemen in Greece accused by Turkey of involvement in a failed military coup in July 2016. While Erdoğan may be demanding the soldiers’ return, the Greek justice system is independent, he said.
Greece was among the first countries to express support for Erdoğan after the coup attempt, Ellis said.
The Greek government, in turn, needs to insist on the principles of international law regarding the Aegean, even if some in Greece may not be entirely happy with the results, Ellis said.
Progress in bilateral ties may also be made thanks to a line of communication between the two countries’ defence ministers, who will both attend a NATO summit in Brussels next week, he said.